Listening Booth: Rachael Sage, “Chandelier”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

Rachael Sage – Chandelier (2008)
purchase this album (BUYSWAG)

Think you can’t make a successful run at an independent career in music unless your name is Ani DiFranco? Think again — Chandelier is Rachael Sage‘s eighth release, all of them coming courtesy of her own elbow grease and gumption. She’s clearly doing all right — not only did Chandelier arrive in my mailbox packed with the sort of crit-swag I assumed went extinct in the late ’90s (glossy folder, color 8×10, reams of tearsheets, and, best of all, Rachael Sage candies), but she’s also spent the last couple of years spearheading a charity compilation series, New Arrivals.

Sage calls these songs “glittery,” and Washington Jewish Week calls Sage the “Jewish Norah Jones.” There’s nothing particularly glittery about Jones’ music, but if you’re a piano-playing woman of a certain age, and your songs rarely stray outside the intersection of Midtempo and Tasteful, you’re probably bound to draw that comparison. Sage’s music carries more of a pulse than Jones’, and her arrangements tend to have a lot more color — a number of tracks on Chandelier feature horns and strings as essential components, rather than backdrop decorations — but Norah’s crowd will probably find a lot to like here.

It’s good stuff, and Sage is a charismatic vocalist; ultimately, however, the material is a tad pedestrian for someone who’s been honing her craft for this long. She lays her heart bare in the press kit, detailing the inspiration for each song (“Blue Light” [download] is about her friendship with John Lee Hooker!), but in the end, those descriptions tend to be more interesting than the songs themselves, which is probably not a good sign. For her target demographic, these songs will likely sail right through the goalposts, but if you don’t count yourself among the bubble-bath set, they may end up floating right over your head instead. Try “Angel in My View” (download) for an extra taste, and hear for yourself.