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Rachael Sage

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Album Review

Chandelier is Rachael Sage's eighth self-released album in the last 12 years, and in describing her, it seems necessary to fall back on comparisons with some of her contemporaries. With her piano-based pop/rock arrangements, over which she sings in an expressive, slightly throaty alto, she comes off as a cross between Tori Amos and Jewel, with perhaps a hint of Ani DiFranco and, given the occasionally jazzy playing of her accompanists, perhaps a pinch of Norah Jones. By the time an artist has made eight albums, however, she isn't supposed to be reminding listeners so much of other artists, and that Sage still does is not just a function of a recording career conducted outside the mainstream labels (nobody mistakes DiFranco, also the proprietor of her own label, for anybody else), but also because her writing and performing, while ear-catching, are not sufficiently distinguished. One factor in going the independent route is a relative lack of feedback, which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on one's own rigorousness. Sage writes a lot of lyrics, most often plumbing the complexities of romantic relationships and sometimes mixing metaphors in run-on sentences in the process. ("The nature of a crime unsolved is that it sometimes leaves you haunted like a ghost without the bravery to speak its mind," she sings in "Corinne.") She also seems to have little sense of the difference between a good line and a bad one. "Hunger in John" is a lament about a lover who has sold out to success, clearly a particular concern to the singer, and it contains some of the few detailed observations Sage makes in her songs, including the striking line "He was so poor that he made me a valentine out of a napkin." Unfortunately, that line follows the song's opening line, "He was so poor that he did his own laundry with his own tears," an example of florid overwriting that should have been replaced with something stronger and more concrete like the line that follows it. This sort of veering from the ridiculous to the sublime tends to make the quality of Sage's songs uneven and to rob her of the ability to rise above her better-known peers. If Chandelier were her debut album, it could be said to demonstrate promise; as an eighth album, it suggests that a longstanding potential has not yet been fulfilled.


Born: Port Chester, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Rachael Sage is a New York City songstress whose music playfully avoids simple categorization. Weaving together bits of folk, pop, rock, blues, jazz, and cabaret while stirring in Celtic and Middle Eastern accents, Sage has created an eclectic body of work that's witty, graceful, and powerfully intimate. Born in Port Chester, New York, Sage developed a taste for music at an early age, listening to her parents spinning the Beatles, Billy Joel, Buddy Holly, and George Gershwin on the family stereo,...
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Chandelier, Rachael Sage
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