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Graphic As A Star

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Album Review

When Josephine Foster released A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing in 2006, she provocatively recorded the lieder of composers like Schumman, Brahms, and Schubert in a unique framework. She sang them in German and played acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica with improvising electric guitarist Brian Goodman accompanying her for a contemporary feel. Though her music exists in a unique space, she echoes such risk-taking classic folk performers such as Shirley Collins. On Graphic as a Star — her debut album for Fire Records — she has written music to the poems of Emily Dickinson, and the fit is seamless. She conceived the 26-song cycle while living in a remote region of Spain and had brought very few books with her. Dickinson’s poems provided comfort. In her liner notes she claims these songs came together in a matter of weeks. Musically, this is more sparse than anything she’s ever recorded — accompanying herself only on an acoustic guitar, sometimes with a primitive-sounding harmonica added. She also she sings a cappella (“Wild Nights - Wild Nights!”) or with only the sounds of chirping birds in the background (“What Shall I Do - It Whimpers So -”). While all of Foster’s work is provocative, this proves the warmest, loveliest, and most beautifully articulated recording in her catalog. These poems (which were also written in solitude; Dickinson was a self-imposed shut-in) easily lend themselves to Foster’s song forms, due to the poet’s keen sense of time, rhythm, and space. Dickinson's writing is often wonderfully elliptical in image and meaning; Foster underscores this here: there are no choruses. These songs are small but evoke the vast emptiness surrounding them. They don’t feel melancholy, even when they are, such as in “My Life Had Stood - A Loaded Gun.“ Instead they are evocative of an America at once imagined and longed for — and this sense of homesickness is evident in the reedy beauty of Foster’s voice — which is more controlled and tempered than ever before; she seems to have found the exact pitch and timbre she’s sought since the beginning. While the entire cycle is gorgeous and the tunes nearly inseparable from one another, a couple of tracks lend themselves to singling out: the lilting early American folk melody in “Tho' My Destiny Be Fustian -“ and the languid, bluesy stroll of “I Could Bring You Jewels - Had I a Mind To -.” Graphic as a Star is exquisite.

Customer Reviews


This really is an amazing album.


Born: Colorado

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

As a teen, Colorado-born singer/songwriter/guitarist Josephine Foster honed her vocal skills at weddings and funerals. Her initial career aspirations leaned toward opera, but as she neared her twenties it was the music of Tin Pan Alley and early British folk that became her muse, resulting in a series of demos that would eventually morph into 2000's ukulele-heavy There Are Eyes Above and 2001's collection of children's songs entitled Little Life. She eventually relocated to Chicago, where she spent...
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Graphic As A Star, Josephine Foster
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