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Judith Edelman
Clear Glass Jar
Review By Steven Stone
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  It has been nine years since Judith Edelman's last release, 2000's Drama Queen. During that time she's been through a divorce, waged an ongoing battle with stage fright, and hours invested in self-evaluation and songwriting. The fruits of her journey are evident on Clear Glass Jar. Edelman's professional musical career began in 1992 with the Colorado-based bluegrass band Ryestraw. After three years she left to form her own band featuring her future ex-husband Matt Flinner on mandolin and Tony Furtado on banjo and Ben Winship on bass. This band released three wonderful albums on Compass Records 1996's Perfect World, 1998's Only Sun, and 2000's Drama Queen. A couple of years after Drama Queen her band and marriage broke up. Faced with being a suddenly solo act Edelman turned to the piano for inspiration. For the next five years she worked on selecting and refining the material in Clear Glass Jar. The results mark a radical change in musical direction.

Unlike her previous work, which had a decidedly stringed instrument-driven folk/bluegrass feel, the songs and arrangements on Clear Glass Jar are piano-driven adult-oriented music. The new Judith Edelman has far more in common with pop diva Tori Amos than bluegrass songbird Claire Lynch.  Some songs, such as "Lost Day," rely heavily on the textural combination of Edelman's airy vocals with rich piano voicing. Instead of hot bluesy fiddle parts Clear Glass features violin, viola, and cello arranged to add a classical bed to many of the arrangements. On "Dead Slow" Edelman even employs a thick harmonic-laden electric guitar line in counterpoint to her lead vocals and piano.

The commercial music scene doesn't encourage artists to reinvent themselves. Sure, a lot of lip service is given to the ideals of "artistic growth," but in reality once an artist has developed a particular sound or genre, they are not encouraged to make changes to a successful product's formula. On Clear Glass Jar Judith Edelman displays a rare level of artistic courage by following her muse. The results were worth the risk this ranks as her best work.

 

 

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