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Album Review

Test of Time, the debut album by Gypsy Soul, the duo of singer/lyricist Cilette Swann and guitarist/composer Roman Morykit, suggested what a second Buckingham Nicks LP might have sounded like if Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had not joined Fleetwood Mac: catchy, folk-based pop/rock songs with inventive arrangements and compelling vocals (even if Swann's voice was closer to Christine McVie's than Nicks'). Three years later with their second album, Sanctuary, Swann and Morykit, still recording for their own label, seem to have given up what pop dreams they may have had by cutting the arrangements down and going in more of a new age/adult alternative direction. Most often, the arrangements feature beds of acoustic and electric guitars with a rhythmic underlay of Jaco Pastorius-like fretless bass playing and only occasional other musical elements, while Swann's voice takes center stage. This means she has to step up; if Test of Time had a weak spot, it was the relatively conventional nature of the romantic sentiments in the lyrics. It turns out she has a lot to talk about this time, and love is still the major subject, which she examines in songs usually set in the first person and directed to someone in the second person. (The only exception to this "I"/"you" address is the lonely "she" described in "Another Morning.") Sometimes things seem to be going well with the narrator and her lover; sometimes she seems to want more from him than she's getting; sometimes she is resolved to break up with him or seems already to have done so. In any case, she wants the same things — affection, attention, understanding. Unfortunately, she tends to express herself in clichés and generalities rather than specifics. "I'm so tired of saving for that rainy day," she sings at the start of "Won't Be Wronged," "Can't be a back-seat driver on this trip of fate/Not a woulda, shoulda, coulda, kind of life for me." That's an extreme example, but it shows the relative lack of invention in the lyrics, which cannot be covered even by Swann's undeniably expressive singing. Only toward the end of the album, on "Solace," which seems to be a song of forgiveness sung by a grown child to her mother, do the lyrics achieve a substance and particularity that justifies the focus put on them in the arrangements. That would be a good song to build on as the group looks to develop its music further. [This is an enhanced CD with extensive materials in the CD-ROM section, including videos of the previous album's single, "Silent Tears," and "Solace," a brief interview, printed lyrics, and a photo gallery.]


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Washington state-based acoustic rock group Gypsy Soul consists of the marital and professional duo of Canadian-American singer/lyricist Cilette Swann and Scottish musician/producer Roman Morykit. They met in 1991 after Swann had gone to Europe to investigate her Celtic roots and spent a few years singing in French jazz clubs, then took her search to Scotland, where she played in a band with Morykit's older brother. Cabana Boy Records released their debut album, Test of Time, in 1996. Sanctuary,...
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Sanctuary, Gypsy Soul
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