Shadows on a Dime

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As with the previous Testimony album, the title track here is the stunner, a diamond surrounded by a cluster of rubies and emeralds. Pick any track in any order and there is musical satisfaction; "Proud Crowd/Pride Cried" is an epic, the way Ian Hunter would provide Mott the Hoople with a thought-provoking "Hymn for the Dudes," but Ferron doesn't have a powerhouse band to drive the message home, just her elegant guitar, impassioned voice, and marvelous production. Both sides of the vinyl LP are divided by subtitles, "Dreaming Back" for side one, and the country-flavored third song in, "The Return," for side two. The gatefold to the LP has all the lyrics plus a few paragraphs from W.B. Yeats' book A Vision, Book III: The Soul in Judgment. As with the title, Shadows on a Dime provides more than just an artist putting thoughts and music to tape -- it's a thoroughly inviting project with a life of its own, Ferron opening up without the tough-girl chic displayed in the four photos that accompany the album. She looks like the "tres butch little number" David Bowie sings about in his "Sweet Thing," but doesn't use that power to disrupt the listener. The music is gender neutral, Mary Fettig's tenor sax lifting and solidifying "Knot 53" while "Snowin' in Brooklyn"'s elegant piano and guitars lightly paint a different picture -- "Sweet love has its chemistry/Sometimes it don't take...It's old human nature/It's cold or it's hot/I think of you often/I like you a lot." The sentiment changes quickly with the uptempo "As Soon as I Find My Shoes I'm Gone," but it is clear that relationships are the key to the stirring of this spirit whether the singer leaves or stays with the subject matter. "Circle Round" is a beautiful instrumental with lyrics in the gatefold but no vocals (!), while "It Won't Take Long" is the tour de force closer that is frosting on the cake, as powerful as the title track. Ferron inscribes a little of her own philosophy -- "We are found here to become our wildest dreams" -- in a brief paragraph next to the credits. Shadows on a Dime is a deep dream realized, and that no A&R man or woman picked this up in 1984 and brought it to the masses says something about important art not getting its due. It's a timeless masterpiece that might not lend itself to cover versions well, for Ferron's personality and talent are the elements that bring this message home. Would you want another artist repainting the Mona Lisa?

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