Delusions of Grandeur Label: Cash Rich Records
Here it is, my 2006 record of the year. That’s right, I know other artists on big labels have released some interesting stuff this year, but for my money, the divine Ms. Richardson and her latest effort on her own little independent label is the strongest complete piece of art to come out this year.
For the uninitiated, Richardson is a singer/songwriter from Chicago who has built a reputation as a passionate performer and one hell of a live act. She also has taken her fabulous pipes and been the voice of Janis Joplin in two separate productions of “Love, Janis,” including a stint that is just wrapping up in San Francisco where she alternates nights in performing the musical side of the blues/rock legend. Ms. Richardson has come an awful long way as an artist since 1993 debut disc, Moon, Not Banana. Beginning with 2001’s Buzzed EP and continuing with 2003’s The Road to Bliss to the current release, Richardson has evolved as a songwriter and talented producer.
Delusions of Grandeur is bigger and deeper sounding than The Road to Bliss in that there are cellos, string arrangements, and the Chicago Children’s Choir. Not all songs have these elements, but a good chunk of them do. Although Cathy’s sense of humor is present here and there, this is a much more serious record than Bliss. Thematically, the record is mostly focused on loneliness and loss (“Ain’t No Home,” “A Phone Call to Joe Quinn,” “Things Are Different” and “Fool’s Regret”). She throws in a bit of spirituality on “G.O.D.” and even offers us a laugh about wanting some of the neighbor’s home grown pot in the reggae-tinged “Closet Cultivator”.
Having the ability to wrap her voice around a song in whatever the necessary format, be it country twangish, gospel, or singing from the depth of her soul, Richardson knows how to deliver the appropriate vocal performance. She restrains that powerful instrument when necessary, as in the moody “Ain’t No Home,” and unleashes it for “Two Questions” and parts of “Overwhelmed,” the best track on an outstanding disc.
In 2004, The Road to Bliss was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Recording Package field for its very unique design, in which the jacket folded out into a dashboard. Delusions follows that blueprint in that the inner portion of the packaging when unfolded displays the inside of a beautiful theatre. The outside of some of those same panels display that same theatre in the future, closed and graffiti-riddled. The liner notes contain the lyrics to the songs but also share little vignettes and stories, as if the album is a musical. The entire thing is a complete piece of art with complete attention to detail. The music, the production, the packaging are all incredibly well done.
Aimee Mann and Shelby Lynne are incredibly talented songwriters who make me run out and buy their new releases regardless of what has been written about them. Cathy Richardson has now moved into that neighborhood.