Timber & Nails
MARY ANN ROSSONI Coming of age is certainly a relative term. You can come of age when you cross the threshold into adulthood. You can come of age when you find a career path. Or you can come of age any time when you truly discover who you are. On her newest album, Timber & Nails, Mary Ann Rossoni has come of age as a songwriter. Her first record in five years and her third solo album overall, Timber & Nails, is the sound of a songwriter growing cozy in her own skin. Her words and music come from the soul of someone who has finally, after a long search, discovered her identity as an artist. "Right now I'm in a comfortable place in my life and music," says the Rhode Island native, "and I have a much healthier outlook. I'm writing what I feel like writing and singing how I feel like singing. For the first time I believe I'm right where I should be." That place is a rarefied one. Her skilled composing and delicate song structures on the new album have never sounded so poignant or affecting. The constant creative work she's done since her last release, 2001's Downcity, finds Mary Ann exploring her subjects with personally unprecedented depth and finesse. "I've always felt like more of a writer than a performer," she admits. "Now I can be just that and not feel guilty." Produced by Jack Gauthier at Lakewest Recording, the songs on Timber & Nails all come from special places. "It's about as personal a collection as I could have written," she says. Songs like the opening title cut, an audience favorite, attests to the intimate power of hearth and home. "Everything Needs Fixin'" addresses another aspect of home, one firmly, and humorously, grounded in the nuts and bolts of everyday life. An early morning walk in Mary Ann's neighborhood inspired "On This Morning." "Wondrous Impressions" describes metaphorically the close-knit bond of great friends, in this case two painters. The song is especially meaningful for Rossoni because she is also an accomplished painter and visual artist. Performed by a superb band that includes Joe Potenza on bass, Dave Lauria on guitar, Dan Hann on drums, Cathy Clasper-Torch on violin, Paul Dube on accordion/harp and Betsy Dake and Ginny McCormick's warm backing vocals the material on the album is beautifully and tastefully arranged, with Mary Ann's acoustic guitar flanked by skilled accompaniment. "Colorline" has some bluesy punch. "Evangeline" features the weepy violin of Clasper-Torch. The tones and hues of the album are moody and evocative throughout, recalling the hushed work of Bill Morrissey and the more poignant side of Cheryl Wheeler. "Everybody that was in the studio had a hand in making this record," she says. "I think everybody had something real to say. Overall, It's not as pop as Downcity, which is good because I feel this sound suits me. It's more about who I am right now." There were some surprises as well; those times when Mary Ann went into the studio thinking of a specific approach and she emerged with a different one. Throughout the process of making this record, she'd work up the skeleton of a song on acoustic guitar then bring it into the studio for her band mates to append it with flesh and blood. "So many of these songs were surprises in some way." She pulled out a Gretsch electric guitar for "Other Woman" and "Only a Lady," ran it through a Vox amp, with Dave Lauria playing acoustic slide. "In fact, all the songs are a surprise to me. Every time I make an album it's a surprise!" Those who know Mary Ann's work, and even those coming to it for the first time, won't be surprised by the recording's superb quality, both in terms of material and production. It's her most accomplished work to date and, with luck, the album that will put her on the singer-songwriter map once and for all. It's not for lack of trying. Rossoni's last album, Downcity, released on the Wall Street label, sold well and received national acclaim. She released her solo debut Half Slips & Garters, album back in 1998. Prior to that Mary Ann was one half of the acoustic duo Fuzek and Rossoni, who released Waking Up from the American Dream in 1995. With Fuzek she cut a couple of EPs and she contributed cuts to a handful of local compilations. Mary Ann grew up outside of Providence in Johnston, Rhode Island, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and now lives in Providence, running a successful design firm in addition to her schedule as a busy musician. In addition to her work and music, Mary Ann pursues painting as well. She has already held a handful of gallery shows and envisions a time when she can create companion paintings to her songs. "One of the reasons it took five years to make this record is because my business has been so successful," she says. "But it was also because I had so much going on in my life. I kept putting it off, thinking the material wasn't ready. I never should have done that, because even if the tunes aren't ready you can go in and turn them into something great. I think that's what happened. I couldn't be more satisfied with it." With Timber & Nails, Mary Ann Rossoni has indeed "come of age." You can hear it.