Book of Beasts
A luminous voice, captivating connectivity, enchanting artistry: Marianne Thomas is a singer/songwriter whose soulful essence is revealed through her new CD 'The Book of Beasts.' The title is an allusion to the bestiary - a type of illustrated book from medieval times that described a bewildering array of real and fanciful creatures thought to haunt the Dark Ages. On the title track, Thomas uses this allegory to describe a man with whom she is entranced, and the complexities of a love affair from which others try unsuccessfully to dissuade her. It is a vivid touchstone of epic orchestration, cinematic songwriting and a performance of sheer vocal power. While 'The Book of Beasts' is the second release for the Bend, Oregon-based vocalist and pianist, it is her first recording on this scale as she notes, "For the songs on this CD, I was truer to my authentic creative voice. I had no agenda as to how it 'should' sound -how to make it ' marketable.' I had to absolutely love and believe in the lyrics and music - and that was the only agenda. What is often the paradox for a creative artist is that when they forget about pleasing other people, they often create their most amazing and appealing work.' Notable among the new songs is "Monhegan," a poignant reminder of the bittersweet qualities of families as revealed in the lines 'And we walked on broken eggshells scattered over all the silent years." Notes Marianne, "I think probably ninety percent of people have dysfunctional upbringings in some way; the family thing was huge for me because we had a big happy family at one point - a base, a home, and that blew apart when I was 12. Thankfully, I had music and the piano to go to (she was a classically trained pianist from the age of 8.) That was another kind of home for me." Thomas often infuses her music with historical references. "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" is a lament to a departed lover gone to war. It is actually an Irish war ballad from the 1500's to which she added a chorus and new lyrics that bring the song into modern times. "The Rest" is reaped from an anonymous poem Marianne found in a Civil War anthology. It was written by a Southern Belle who worked in the hospitals caring for the wounded and dying. These poignant, centuries-old points of reference are as timely today as they were when they were written. "I love history," says Marianne, "feeling that connection." The historical references are mirrored in the timeless melodies on this CD that often allude to Celtic influences and classic American folk songs. The lyrics and melodies reveal shades of clarity and shadow and offer forth a span of emotions from darkness to light: "You held my white dove in your hands and marveled at it's whispered power. Some part of you melted then and some part raged back even harder" -from the title song. Growing up in Spokane, Washington and moving to Barrington, Rhode Island at the age of 13 provided a duality of locales and cultural influences for Marianne. A degree in music composition from Brown University and a Masters in music education are among her academic qualifications, but it is her connection to a bottomless reservoir of words and music that makes her an entrancing songwriter and recording artist. Currently Marianne lives where she can ride her horses in the surrounding high desert of Central Oregon. The synergy of woman and steed, the thundering hoofs and majestic vistas are all metaphors reflected in songs. "Riding, for me, is like going to church," she avows. What provides the greatest inspiration for Thomas? "Well, unfortunately, I have found that pain brings forth some of the very best songs. Fortunately, writing helps me deal with the pain that inspired the song in the first place." she says. "Writing helps me make sense of the world inside of me - which can be intense and confusing sometimes.' "In life there is pain- there just is. Of course there is joy too. And joy is what we all keep striving for -the joy of love, home, comfort, communion. Happiness- an emotional heaven on earth. We're always looking for it, or feeling the sadness of not having it, or pretending it's there when it's really not, or filling the emptiness up with something addictive - or, sometimes, feeling the peace of just accepting that it's not going to be there all the time and that's ok." -Dan Kimpel.