Saturday, April 19, 2008

Melissa Errico: Lullabies and Wildflowers

Usually an album from a Broadway star means one of two things—Broadway standards or pop. In Lullabies and Wildflowers, Tony-nominated Broadway star Melissa Errico deviates into something quite different. Setting aside her soaring soprano, Errico, whose Tony nomination was for her work in Amour, chooses soothing vocal restraint in this satisfying mix of lullabies (and, apparently, a few wildflowers).

Most of the titles on the album will be familiar to the average listener. The thirteen tracks consist of a number of traditional lullabies, two new ones (one by Errico herself, another by her brother Mike Errico), and a few well-known titles interpreted in the genre of, including the two theatre-related entries, Gershwin and Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s “Walking Happy.”

Errico’s beautiful voice is well showcased on the album in a soothing tone that sometimes borders on folk (in fact, one of the best tracks on the album is a cover of the Judy Collins song “Since You Asked”). The disc opens with the simple “Mockingbird” lullaby, which is a song typical of the album—warm orchestrations coupling with the softness of Errico’s voice—creating a track that is both traditional lullaby and a beautiful listening experience on an adult level.

There are a number of strong entries on Lullabies and Wildflowers, including Errico’s hauntingly beautiful “Hushabye.” Another highlight is the traditional lullaby “Tiny Sparrow,” which receives an ethereal treatment in Errico’s vocals and Rob Mathes’ arrangements. Interestingly enough, the best track on the album is probably Errico’s take on Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” which manages to change the tempo of the album with a song celebrating free spirits without disrupting the overall concept of lullabies. Similarly, the folk-infused “Garten Mother’s Lullaby” is also both spirited and pretty at the same time.

Not all of the songs, however, fully register as stand-out material, sort of dissipating into the background until one of the stronger tracks begins. There are a few curious turns on the album including a “Someone to Watch Over Me” that requires Errico to find a balance between her beautiful Broadway soprano and the restraint used elsewhere, an effect that never fully lands. The final track, “Walking Happy,” is pretty much unlistenable as it is filtered through a gimmicky audio effect, which gives the impression of an gramophone playing the song on the next block over.

Lullabies and Wildflowers will undoubtedly be a welcome addition to the collection of any parent in need of something soothing to lull their little ones into a peaceful sleep. For the adult without children, however, the greatest appeal of the album will undoubtedly be for times of quiet and soothing, perhaps on a rainy evening with a mug of hot cocoa in hand. The album hits stores on April 29, in time for Mother’s Day.

For those Broadway fans who can’t wait until then to hear Errico (whose Broadway credits also include Anna Karenina, High Society, Frank Wildhorn’s Dracula), you can catch her in her concert at Joe’s Pub on April 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street, New York). Ticket's are $30 and can be purchased at Joe's Pub's website.

the Broadway Mouth
April 19, 2008

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