Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick won me over the first time I ever heard her back in 1993 when her debut record, “Massive Blur,” was released.
I was struck then by her lyrical intensity and her stirring voice and all these years later that hasn’t changed. Paul Simon might have 50 ways to leave a lover, but Melissa Ferrick’s got about a hundred ways to scorn, mourn and celebrate one.
She’s also a specialist when it comes to laying herself bare through her music and that’s precisely what makes her work so riveting.
Many studio albums have followed since “Massive Blur,” along with a couple of live ones.
On the last day of July, Ferrick dropped her self-titled 12th album, and although it’s not possible to wear out a digital album, I have tried my best to do so by playing it at least 3 trillion times. Without compromising any of her emotional fierceness, this collection of songs feels like an exhalation of breath from Ferrick. It’s like she’s discovered a peaceful corner of the world and is loving hanging out there.
Here’s a line from the record’s third track, “Careful”: “Sitting all the way across this room, I just gave myself to you/And every love I’ve ever had/ I want to thank for getting me to you.”
Then there’s “Scenic View”: “I’m gonna let go with everything I’ve got/I’m gonna let you see me/Cause I believe that nothing is stronger than love/But I better give this everything I’ve got.”
And I can’t talk about this record without shining a light on “Stars Outnumber Our Hearts.” Ferrick’s song about one summer night when everything fell into place so perfectly is perhaps one of the best she’s ever written. “The whole dome of stars that night/Never had the darkness looked so bright/Never had the silence sounded so right/Then this lady next to me just off the cuff said, ‘The stars outnumber our hearts’/And everything inside of me took a breath and stopped.”
Listen for yourself:
Another twist to this record is that it’s got her first instrumental song on it. “Elephant” is lovely and entrancing. In fact, Ferrick told me that this winter she’s going to record an album of all instrumentals.
“There’s going to be some voices, a few words maybe – but I’m excited to take on this genre.” This is good news because although the trumpet was her first instrument, the acoustic guitar has become an extension of her body, such is the ease and precision with which she plays. Never one to idly strum, Ferrick plays her guitar with the same kind of passion with which she sings – sometimes fierce and wild, sometimes calm and grounded.
As for her live shows, Ferrick embodies ferocity and sincerity the moment she takes the stage. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen her live and have witnessed the electricity of her performances. She’s able to crack jokes one moment and then split your heart wide open the next.
By the way, the “Melissa Ferrick” album has a Portland connection, as it was mastered at Gateway Mastering by Adam Ayan.
Here’s another favorite Ferrick song from her 2000 album “Freedom”
And hell hath no fury like a Ferrick scorned. Here’s another one from “Freedom.” Brace yourself…Here’s “Some Kinda Nerve.” And cool, someone (not me) shot this clip at Empire in Portland in March of 2012.
Melissa Ferrick, 8 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $20 in advance, $25 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com