Not since Lewis & Clark embarked on their Voyage of Discovery two hundred years past has an explorer so ignited the collective imagination of a loyal following. Last night Terre Roche guided a hearty band of disparate urbanites through a quickening warren of aural and visual stimuli traversing unmapped terrain with the sureness and acuity of a master trailblazer. A natural and modest cynosure of the enlightened, Ms. Roche, garbed in Sinbad's trousers brought her sonic alchemy to The Shambala Center where she offered an evening of Work(s) In Progress.
In an engaging often self deprecatory manner, Ms. Roche shared the ephemera of her songbook and sketchpad accompanied by wry commentary, guitar virtuosity, laser irony, and inspiring vocals. Her pace embraced the house's ability to follow, dolling out wit portioned with poignancy.
An anecdote about an antipodal collaborator: an Aussie who materialized on her midtown doorstep, closed the first part of the evening. Terre played an abridged tape of their marathon songwriting session followed by another tape of the completed tune in performance by the young man and his sibling glam band.
This First Act closer set-up the next set's opener with Ms.Roche introducing several live collaborators. Janine Nichols a fledgling singer/songwriter emboldened and complemented in melody and harmony by her seasoned accompanist. Sidiki Conde, West African jembe master who turned the tables on his host by playfully correcting her on the proper riff rhythm intro-ing their moving, anthemic duet. And lastly, the luminescent Richard Barone joining Terre on a song they'd been cobbling since the last century: a comment on the evanescent nature of geography and well..life.
The finale was a joyful jam of strings, percussion, and what appeared to be an answering machine as Ms.Roche led the impromptu band and audience on a rousing, uncharted musical odyssey with the undaunted courage, confidence and talent of her buckskinned predessors.
C. Fagin 3.31.02 NYC
Terre Roche The Sound of a Tree Falling
[Earth Rock Wreckerds 001 (1999)]
Terre Roche steps out from the Roches for her first solo album. bringing along her gift for witty and or introspective lyrics and her facile guitar playing. As the album's title and songs like"Suffering is the Nature of Samsara" suggest, Roche's introspection is filtered through a lens of Eastern religious training. Consequently, her images of living a modern urban life (gossips, bad relationships, job dissatisfaction, NYC cab drivers) are subtly revealed as ~ , the illusion of the temporal realm. Cast into songs ripe with varied, tumbling melodic lines, Roche's meditations never become pontifical, and her tongue still resides firmly in her cheek. It's not quite what you'd expect from the woman who brought us "The largest Elizabeth in the World," but it's solid. substantial, and begs for repeated listenings. Sibling Maggie adds harmony on three songs. (GH)
The Sound Of A Tree Falling
Earth Rock Wreckerds 0001
This is Terre Roche's first ever solo work - something many people have been waiting for a long time. She's famous as the sister in the middle, the one who sings between older sister Maggie and younger sister Suzzy. She's the one who has often been the glue that holds the trio together by playing and singing the hardest parts - usually the middle parts that connect the others And as strong as she is in this role, when she steps out into the lead her abilities as a singer, writer and guitarist seem often unlimited. There have been suggestions of her somewhat secret abilities over the years, as when she showed up on Robert Fripp's masterful Exposure to wail with pure unrestrained ferocity the title song. This is Terre Roche, we thought? That sweet girl in the middle? It was the magnificent strength of her amazing song "Christlike" from the Roches' Can We Go Home Now that led me to openly wonder in these very pages just how powerful a solo album by Terre might be.
Now we know the answer: This album is the work of an extremely serious and gifted songwriter who is unafraid of tackling tough subjects in her songs, subjects that go often against the grain of common thinking. The idea that we don't have to change, for example, and that we can even celebrate our imperfection, is a theme that reverberates through these songs. "I Like It Here" extols the beauty of simply existing without the need for any kind of transformation or improvement, and does so to a melody so sweet that the Iyric rings especially true. "The Unrecovered One" is a powerful and refreshing song also about accepting one's own human nature, without the need to be straight and strong.
The luminous "Suffering Is The Nature Of Samsara" delves into the power of faith, and the dilemma of being spiritual and human at the same time. This one is punctuated by a lovely musical mantra: "I'm trying to stay true to what I believe in." It's also the theme of "Francis," which is maybe the album's most touching song. Written as a song of gratitude to Terre's patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, it's a beautiful meditation on the struggle between the body and the soul. She contrasts herself to the saint whose only possessions were his shoes, a gown and a begging bowl, by presenting the sad and funny truths of her own modern existence.
In her songs over the years with her sisters, and now in these new ones, Terre has a special kind of intimacy and candor in songs - a way of stepping away from the poetic conventions of Iyric writing to speak directly to her fellow humans about what it's like being human, in language we all understand. It's a tendency that is accentuated by her clear, almost conversational vocals, which allow us to hear every word. It's there in "Blabbermouth" when she sings, "Actually I 'm speaking about myself/ I'm the person this song is about/And it's the loneliest feeling you ever felt/To have to be the blabbermouth." It's there in the opening song, "The Sound Of A Tree Falling, " an enchantingly hypnotic song that resounds like a musical haiku, and expresses its heart with a sweet and compelling simplicity. "New York City Pakistan" sports one of the catchiest choruses she's ever written, and presents a clash of cultures both musically and Iyrically by playing a jubilant American melody directly against a kind of Indian raga, while letting a Pakistani cabby speak for himself, and in doing, so, allowing him to speak volumes.
As all Roches fans already know, besides being a fine songwriter Terre is also great singer and guitarist. Though she says this was produced by "Nobody," in fact she produced it herself, but it's somewhat of a production of omission in that she omitted all but the most crucial elements - the tracks are composed of voices and guitars. (Occasionally, to set a groove, there is the addition of clapping hands.) All her years of working out vocal and guitar parts within a trio has served her well - her guitar parts are soulfully organic yet inventive, and intertwine as naturally as the great vocal harmony parts she creates. Her playing is both complex and foundational, setting up solid but delicate rhythmic structures for each song on which her vocals can soar.
Terre plays all the instruments here and does all the singing except for three tracks in which sister Maggie lends her distinctive tones. (The album is also dedicated to Maggie, who Terre calls "my favorite songwriter.") Terre's cat, Max, also sings along on two tracks, which caused my own cat some serious concern each time I played this album. But Max's presence makes sense here, as the overriding message of the album has to do with understanding one's place within nature, something cats know well, and which Terre expresses throughout this album in both her words and music. This is a special album. I hope it's the first of many. --- PZ