Listening to a Lorraine Feather record is a little like sharing a cup of coffee at the kitchen table with an old friend. The natural flow of the conversation is intoxicating and, with every cup of coffee, the time ticks away joyously.
Feather’s latest record, Ages, continues that conversational jazz vocal trend of hers and spins it down some unique avenues. While Language was an exploration of the poetry of words, Ages moves forward somewhat and tackles the theme of aging with class, humour and dignity.
The record features a precise array of musicians, all of which bring their own funky fluidity to the arrangements. Feather’s lyrics bounce effortlessly through the various arrangements, taking residence within the slick and smooth jazz of Eddie Arkin’s “Old At 18/Dog Bowl” and hopping through the bouncy Dick Hyman-arranged “Scrabble.”
Good as the music is, it’s Feather’s unique approach to the vocals that puts Ages over the top.
On the aforementioned “Scrabble,” for instance, Feather walks a tightrope of styles adeptly. Her word choices put us in the situation and the Hyman arrangement toys with ragtime without slipping into hokey, old-timey territory. As the song continues along its merry way, it becomes clear that Feather isn’t just talking about word games.
Other tracks play similar revealing tricks. The beautiful “I’ve Always Had a Thing For You” is all about the effort it takes to express true feelings. Feather’s take on a traditional love ballad proves stunningly post-modern, putting the listener in the midst of a conversation that longs for a push.
More than simply an album about growing old, Feather’s Ages explores the theme of aging as a process rather than a destination. None of the songs are about “getting old.” Instead, Feather elects to look forward and back with joyous reflection and longing, introducing us to various steps along life’s path with a smile and a chuckle.
“The Girl with the Lazy Eye” talks about a “chat with the parents” and hits on some personal notes, but Feather works beyond the borders of a biographical piece and moseys towards more universal themes. “She isn’t with it socially,” she sings.
It is Feather’s basic, unfussy approach to universal themes that helps make her music what it is. Accessible, fun and surprisingly poignant, Ages is a record about the process of growing older and the approach to dealing with the inevitability of aging. While the record may seem grand and extensive, Feather’s personal approach keeps things intimate and genuine.