Little Miss Slean is all grown up and she’s returned with her fifth major label release The Baroness. “She is what I can be when fear and courage mix perfectly,” the pianist said introducing her latest effort. “The baroness is my guide, my muse, my broken and triumphant-self. She is a wild woman in a red dress.”
The Baroness is a mature effort co-produced by I Mother Earth guitarist Jagori Tanna who also lends his musicianship to the album along side Ron Sexsmith and fellow Torontonian Royal Wood.
A birth of sorts, The Baroness was conceived during Slean’s nine-month stay in Paris in support of the European release of her previous record Day One.
“But I couldn’t finish all my writing in Paris for some reason,” Slean remembered. “It was making me nuts! I find that if you’re in sensory overload or overly fearful and kind of lost, music is not as readily available.”
The Baroness is anything but unavailable. This haunting collection is by far Slean’s most accessible offering to date. The gloomy lead single “Get Home” sets the way for the entire album, dark, somber and heartfelt.
“There’s a lot of exile, displacement, and disillusionment, but it’s very honest,” Sarah described. “I love theatre and drama, but there is much less of it here. That’s what’s so different about The Baroness.”
Fans of the Slean machine will hear two more major differences. Sarah’s maturity and vocal control took one big step up. The Baroness also has a radio-chumminess and a slicker production than what we are used to. At times the album can ring MacLachlanesque and you nearly forget which Sarah you’re listening to.
But by the album’s halfway point, “Sound of Water/Change Your Mind” stands out with its richness, layers and upbeat tempo. Slean’s poetry and complexities return here reminding you that, as usual, this lady will never let you down.
The Baroness has one major element working against it, a dislocated member that would have made this record more than complete. Now rendered to a b-side, “Parasol” is a true cabaret tune that tastes like fine wine. You can practically smell Paris if you crank the volume up just right.
“Parasol” has the playfulness of Day One’s “Lucky Me,” romanced by the darkness of Slean’s shadowy “Night Bugs” and delivered high on Slean’s soaring vocals.
All my sympathies go to the decision maker who dropped this ditty from the final track listing. Big mistake. In the least “Parasol” is living a digital life. Like a door prize, the missing track is a free bonus download when you pre-order The Baroness at www.sarahslean.com.
By now you’ve missed the pre-order, so the cyber hunt is on. This one is a must download.
For new listeners and Slean fans alike this album is a milestone in this artist’s journey that is nowhere near ending. She’s come a long way and is deserving of this noble title in her own right. All hail the baroness.
Sarah Slean’s The Baroness is available now. A national tour is planned for late spring.