BALLADS & BURLESQUE (2004)
Ballads & Burlesque is a shameless emotional striptease from an ever-evolving songwriter affectionately dubbed "the Cher of the folk scene" and "a female
Elton John" by her diverse, grassroots following. A concise set of ten story-songs reflecting on different aspects of seduction, this album marks her debut as sole producer and arranger. The CD was recorded by John Shyloski, mixed by Kevin Killen (Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush), and is the followup to last year's critically acclaimed Public Record.
"All of these songs are about various degrees of seduction, whether it be seduction by a friend, a lover or even the lure toward greater freedom at the expense of security and acceptance. Once I realized that, the title just kind of popped into my head." Both "Even Love Dies" and "It's So Hard" celebrate the intoxication of being seduced by your opposite, something Sage says she's an "unintentional expert on." The energetic production of the latter features guitar playing by fellow urban-gypsy Patti Rothberg. "Patti's much more laid back and intuitive than me. She's like my rock 'n roll doppleganger - plus we both paint our jeans with acrylics."
The gospel-tinged "One True Thing" includes drums by longtime collaborator Doug Yowell (Duncan Shiek, Suzanne Vega), who has toured with Rachael in Europe as well as the U.S. Beams Yowell, "It's always exciting recording with Rachael because she just sits down and creates a mood...She's a very spontaneous artist, but her music has an
emotional map to it that makes it a pleasure to play." Mixer and recording veteran Kevin Killen heartily agrees. "I knew I'd have a great time mixing her material because her sensibility is innovative and quirky - which keeps me on my toes!" "Ferris Wheel" sonically reflects Killen's work with Peter Gabriel and rounds out an otherwise traditional sounding record with its haunting, industrial soundscape in the verses which Sage jokes "sounds like my inner modern dancer duking it out with my outer ballerina."
The album's closer, "Bravest Fear", explores the seduction of freedom, but from the point of view of someone who is choosing the peace of death over the pain of a life filled with anxiety. Recorded live and dedicated to the late Elliot Smith, the song features cellist Stephanie Winters (Dar Williams, Catie Curtis) and bassist Richard Gates (Suzanne Vega). "Why Not Love" is a song about the lure of independence and leaving the security of a relationship that "works on some levels, but just isn't satisfying...because you can never be what the other person wants no matter how hard you try."
Seducing listeners with sensual vocal/piano hooks and a decidedly empathetic viewpoint, Sage draws from a rich mixture of musical traditions including art-pop, jazz and folk. "Jane's Dmitri", a song about the intoxication of first love, was written after she met her teenage cousin's boyfriend at a Thanksgiving dinner. Lines like "now she finally hears his voice / like the days the between the Sabbath / leaving her no other choice" subtley reveal Sage's Conservative Jewish upbringing - which she humorously describes as "the biggest influence on my sense of melody, guilt and dieting".
3. It's So Hard
4. Why Not Love
5. Even Love Dies
6. One True Thing
7. Jane's Dimitri
9. Ferris Wheel
10. Bravest Fear
“Genuine talent… Sage has a knack for writing melodies
that will break your heart without making you feel manipulated in the
process… Where there’s poignancy there’s also subtlety, unforced
passion and knowing observation” - RollingStone.com
“Sexy, self-possessed and impressive. This
piano-playing artist’s songs are both personal and socio-political.
Sage has earned a place as a performer to be taken seriously, a force
to be reckoned with.” - Performing Songwriter
“Wow. That’s the first word you’ll say when you hear
the sweet sounds of this hard-working singer-songwriter…Sage’s voice is
a pleasure to the senses. And from the very first track on her new
album “Ballads and Burlesque,” you’ll be hooked. ” - The Jewish Weekly
“Rich vocals, sparkling piano and yearning poetry…” - Time Out NY