Penny Lang

Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky

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Released in Canada and the United States in 2006, Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky is Penny Lang's first album since 1999 and the Canadian folk veteran's first studio recording since suffering a stroke in 2000 (when she was 58). Some singers who survived strokes have been forced to give up singing for good, but thankfully, Lang recovered enough to record again and provide a meaningful album. This excellent CD points to the fact that although Lang (who turned 64 in 2006) is folk-oriented, she has plenty of other influences as well. During the course of the album, Lang combines folk with everything from gospel ("Let Me Fly") to country ("If I Could Be the Rain," "Prairie Sky") to Celtic music (the title track) to jazz and torch singing ("Careless Love," "Room to Move"). The vocal jazz that Lang acknowledges on parts of Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky isn't the Charlie Parker-influenced bop of Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Abbey Lincoln, but rather, vocal jazz from the pre-bebop era (as in Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey, and Hoagy Carmichael during the '30s). Regrettably, Lang's catalog isn't nearly as large as it should be; in a perfect world, she would have been recorded exhaustively back in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. And it's also regrettable that the Montreal native isn't as well-known in the United States as she is in Canada. But listeners can be thankful for the Lang albums that do exist, and that includes the rewarding Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky.

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