CD REVIEW Ted Sink's 'Superette' is top shelf By Chuck Ginsberg firstname.lastname@example.org Ted Sink's second release in two years is a collection of 12 meaty originals with Sink on lead and back-up vocals and nylon and acoustic guitar. His love for the pedal steel sound (i.e., country) and Neil Young are prominent but the music is tasty, never cloying and eminently listenable, multiple times. The lyrics, however, are the star, 180 degrees from triteness. Sink has something to say and he does it well. Rereading the lyrics in the liner notes, even after the music has stopped, is an exercise we indulged in several times with the stereo turned low. Topics include relationships, mostly rocky, but always deeply felt, with self, lovers, fantasized lovers, fellow humans, religion and 'the bitter teardrops of war,' life and death. There is one exception. 'Another Heartache Country Song' is just that, a nimble, playful spoof of the generic heartache country song. Sink's song titles are often harbingers of the text to follow. Titles like 'Suspicion,' 'One Last Time,' 'Bitter Teardrops, 'Twilight Zone,' 'I'm Not Your Fool,' the ironic 'Sweet Dreams,' 'Pointless Conversation,' 'Love Is a Liar,' and 'When You Go.' In retrospect, they become even more telling. After roughly a quarter of a century, off and on in various amateur bands, Sink seems to have written the music for two albums in two years. Actually, the music was accumulating all along. Asked to explain his creative surge, Sink described playing his music for some California friends. The woman cried, and had him play for her professional musician husband. That was the catalyst. 'Over the years I had accumulated notebooks full of lyrics, which I had never done anything with.' Back home, he recalls, guitar teacher Kent Allyn suggested he 'go for it.' 'Once I started it was like I couldn't stop.' Six months into the recording process, 'I found myself coming up with new material almost on a weekly basis. I was cranking out a different song almost every week. I've got enough stuff for another album.' Sink is abetted by a raft of local stalwarts: co-producer and engineer Andy Happel (violin, cello, back-up vocals); Allyn (bass, keyboards, and dobro); Carri Coltrane and Lucia Nazzaro (back-up vocals); Allyn and Robbie Coffin (lead guitars); Wayne Brewer (pedal steel guitar); Rick Paige, Ron Bouffard, and Jim Rioux (percussion); and Sink's 13-year-old nephew Ben Sink (trombone). With all that rockiness, and the tendency to look at the underbelly of relationships, why is 'Superette' a candidate for a Valentine's Day gift? Because it's real, a loaf of life whose slices resonate with those who've been there. Warning: you'd better be serious; shallow doesn't live here anymore. And a final note, serious and thoughtful are NOT code words for depressing. The official release date for 'Superette' is Friday, Feb. 18, 2005. To celebrate, Sink and a studio band of six (Happel, Allyn, Coltrane, Rioux, Bruce Derr, and brother Tim Sink) will sweeten Portsmouth's performing ozone with songs from 'Superette' and Ted Sink's earlier release ('Mistaken') at the Blue Mermaid, 8 p.m. until the material runs out, or the fingers flag, whichever comes first. Personal and Musical BIO The second oldest in a Catholic family of 12 children, I grew up in NYC, a suburb of Boston and Manchester NH. My musical tastes and influences are eclectic. I sing in a classical choral group that performs Mozart, Haydn and Bach. I love the precision and direct emotional kick of country music. I love the harmonic dissonance of jazz. I love Latin rhythms. I love folk music, and the classic torch songs and jazz ballads of the 40's and 50's. I love the Stones and the Eagles, the Beach Boys, Steely Dan, Charlie Mingus, Monk, Sheryl Crow, Shaun Colvin and I'm getting tired of trying to remember names. I bought a Silvertone guitar from the Sears catalog when I was a sophomore in high school, and kept it at a friend's house where I learned to play songs by Elvis, Duane Eddy and The Kingston Trio. In the Navy, I taught myself jazz chords from books and by listening to Charlie Byrd records. I also performed some in a Norfolk, VA coffee house with a bass player. I started recording music and writing seriously in 2000. I knew nothing about the process but jumped in and learned by doing. Along the way I received a lot of help from great players and teachers. Most of the songs on these CDs (Superette and Mistaken) are love songs based on either specific or general experiences. Most of the later material is about a significant long-term relationship that survived a number of tragedies but finally tanked in a paroxysm of despair and heartache. See "Twilight Zone." There are a few non-love songs too. "Elvis's Underpants" is about a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "Already Dead" is a black humor look at spiritual disenfranchisement. "Bitter Teardrops" is my reaction to the crusade-like wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Suspicion" is about jealousy in the abstract. "Gospel" is about that. I like all the music on these albums, but if I had to pick representative favorites they would be "Superette" (Superette #1â€' alt country, tells a true story); "Twilight Zone" (Superette #5 â€' jazz ballad/ heartache love song); "One Last Time" (Superette #3 â€' alt country love song, tells a story); "Another Heartache Country Song' (Superette #6 â€' classic Nashville country & western, tells a story); "Run To You" (Mistaken #12 â€' a gospel/torch love song); "Talk To me" (Mistaken #1 â€' a Latin jazz love song; and "Just Another Jim" (Mistaken #2 â€' Steely Dan influenced blues pop, tells an allegorical story). If I had to do it all over again, I would make "Run To You" the title cut of my first album. Ted Sink.