Album Review: Fire in the Archives by Jaia Suri

Album Name: Fire in the Archives
Artist: Jaia Suri
Year/Label: 2003 / Vagabond Records

Review by Pierce Foxe

“Fire in the Archives” is Jaia Suri’s third independent release. And this time it’s just Jaia. There are a few tasteful harmony overdubs, but all instrumentation is Jaia, on banjo, guitar, electric guitar and tambourine. And predictably, this only serves to enhance the haunted minimalism, which is her trademark sound.

From the first cut, “So Sober”, right through all fourteen tunes, the listener is drawn into Jaia’s contemplative world. As always, she conjures unexpected images. In “So Sober”, she is facing a crushing loss (without anesthetic), which she describes as “fire in the archives of me.” I never heard it put that way, but I surely recognize the feeling.

In “Grow You a Mango Tree” she takes a classic metaphor and enriches it. Planting a tree has had ceremonial implications forever, but the connection between love and mangoes…new to me. The urgent, percussive banjo on this song is particularly effective, as well.

Jaia Suri thinks outside the box. Who else uses a slide on a banjo? She makes up tunings. She makes good use of those little drum flourishes, on the body of the instrument. And she is quite astute in using the occasional well-placed dissonance. Jaia’s playing is very deliberate, yet possesses a rolling, leisurely quality that puts me in mind of strolling an empty beach at dawn.

Then there’s her voice. Years of dance training seem to have been conveyed to her larynx. Her voice capers, like a swallow in flight, rising and whirling, and once or twice dropping to a soft growl. There are plaintive voicings, pained voicings, ironic voicings, and overall a reflective voice, concerned about the path of destiny – personal and global. Our common yearnings, losses, and struggles toward personal freedom are articulated in her poetry. And her voice feels and loves her words.

“Fire in the Archives” is a penetrating, well-crafted collection of fourteen original songs, which disclose a poet/songwriter, deeply engaged in her life on the road and deeply observant of all of our lives on “The Road.”

Posted on July 16, 2003

Track Listing
1. So Sober
2. The Wind in Massachusetts
3. Heart Well Gave
4. 5 Cents More
5. Train Wreck Harmonies
6. The Jersey Shake-Off
7. Train Rolls
8. Grow You a Mango Tree
9. He Won’t Dance
10. Confusion Mountain Range
11. Going Home
12. What Joy I Can
13. Farmer Man
14. Out the Call

[Jaia Suri Official Site]


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