Charmingly chamber covers of hits that somehow miss the point and don’t go where the angels fear to tread.
A jewel of an artist in her own right and an accompanist to such diverse performers as Randy Newman, Enya and Kanye West, singing harpist Erin Hill gathered the threads of her experience into an album of borrowed pieces. Sounding exactly as one would expect from a crystal-clear voice and 47 dewdrop strings, the record may raise eyebrows with some of its material but, if collections of this kind rely on the strength of interpretation, Erin does little more than translating original arrangements for her instrument, and faithful – note-for-note, down to the solo – reading of pieces like “Dust In The Wind” makes no sense in creative terms.
The record doesn’t come without surprises, Erin removing the camp gloss from ROXY MUSIC’s “More Than This” in favor of fragile, if quietly percussive, transparency, and “Black Star” has been given the languid soulness which RADIOHEAD’s prototype lacked. Still, the flow is obvious for the most part. Clearly indebted to the Buckleys on emotional vocals front as her blissful renditions of “Hallelujah” and “Song To The Siren” suggest, Hill takes tunes by Lady Gaga, Adele and Kate Bush – all piano-based at their disturbed source – to a boudoir of her own and throws in a couple of arias, by Bizet and Puccini, for good, bel canto measure. The singer’s French in “Habanera” and “La Vie En Rose” may betray an American in her, yet Erin’s take on THE SMASHING PUMPKINS’ “Disarm” is innocently natural, and “Voices Carry” turn ‘TIL TUESDAY’s smash into a vibrant Renaissance tapestry.
Unlike these, “Eleanor Rigby” should have been left on the ground where it belongs, while Hill easily marries a down-to-earth swing to a celestial strum in “Come Fly With Me” to shed a completely different light on her approach to a melody. Erin can be sublime when she lets her hair down for a night on the town, but there’s too much restraint and respect on this album to see it.