Tracy Bonham is highly regarded as a songwriter, musician and performer, one whose violin has backed prominent artistes such as Juliana Hatfield, Aerosmith, Eels, some of the musicians she has either written for or recorded alongside, and assisting her in the recording of her 4th album are some of Tom Waits drinking buddies. So I find myself forced to ask, why isn’t hers a name I recognise? After all, her first album, 1996’s The Burdens Of Being Upright earned her a gold disc and several award nominations, and Bonham appears to have written and recorded constantly ever since, apparently happier to follow her own instincts and maintain an artistic distance from her erstwhile collaborators, and the results of this altruistic approach to her own work make for continuously rewarding, if occasionally less than comfortable listening. Taking its title from a Walt Whitman poem, Masts Of Manhatta is a hugely accomplished and skilfully arranged collection of songs and if there’s one thing you couldn’t accuse Tracy Bonham and her backing band of, that is playing safe in terms of influences and instrumentation, definitely.
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