Friday, August 29, 2014

Singer Carrie Marshall brings jazzy originals to Matthews Alive

Charlotte transplant Carrie Marshall is among the five songwriters featured at Matthews Alive's Songwriter Sunday - part of the Labor Day weekend family-friendly cultural festival's live music schedule. Marshall's latest release is "Home," which finds the singer-songwriter delving into original material written in the style of jazz standards. 

She's written and arranged "Home" in the cinematic style of Burt Bacharach or Cole Porter filtered through `70s AM pop, which today translates to easy listening, smooth jazz, and at times adult contemporary. It's classic, but it's also new. That's what's really exciting about "Home." Marshall has made the kind of record we don't hear often outside of artists like Diana Krall and Norah Jones. And "Home" is done extremely well with assists from producer/percussionist Jim Brock (Kathy Mattea), Van Sachs, Terry Peoples, and Mark Stallings. Marshall and this handful of co-writers and musicians have crafted an extremely polished, classic-sounding record in that style without making something that comes across as kitschy or retro.

Vocally it's obvious Marshall is capable of belting out country, pop, and gospel as well as the jazz and blues that fill her current repertoire. On "Home" she brings to mind contemporary jazz singers like Krall as well as some of the biggest voices of the `70s - Carole King, Carly Simon, Rita Coolidge, and a pre "Grease" Olivia Newton-John for instance. But while she shares qualities with those singers she carves out her own sound, while remaining stylistically versatile. 

"Sentimental Journey," for instance, is a nod to vocal groups like the Andrews Sisters with Marshall handling all the harmonies, demonstrating her range and versatility. More, please! 

The music throughout is subtle and Marshall's voice is lovely, but never over-the-top. You can clearly hear, for instance, each snare hit, cymbal shimmy and the low thump of walking bass on "Over the Moon." The fills are never showy on songs like "Carry On," a sunny, sing-songy track. "Don't Forget About Me" is a sultry samba laced with sax, piano, and guitar fills. There's a feeling of discovery and newness - as if she's observing places she's never been before or forcing a sunny outlook in the face of a new day - on songs like "Twelve Trinity Square" and "Carry On." 

Marshall isn't solely a jazz singer though. Knowing that, "Home" seems like it might be a self-imposed challenge for a seasoned singer-songwriter and music instructor to see if she could create a new collection that may easily be mistaken for jazz standards. If that was the case, she certainly meets the challenge. 

If you can't make the festival, Marshall plays the region frequently singing in hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, at regional festivals, and at Romare Bearden Park. You can view her schedule here

Music at Matthews Alive kicks off Friday at 6:30 with classic acts the Catalinas and the Tams. Saturday's lineup focuses on tributes to the `50s, `60s, `70s, and `80s followed by a headlining tribute to Bruce Springsteen. Sunday's headliner is country act Little Texas. Other performing songwriters Sunday are Aris Quiroga, Colby Dobbs, Randy Paul, and Casey Clark. Marshall plays at 3 p.m. 

The Carolina Voices and Bandstand Boogie close out the festival Monday with songs from the "American Bandstand" era. Children's entertainment is also on the schedule each day. For full lineup click here

For more on Carrie Marshall, click here