The music on Feather's new release is by Russell Ferrante [Yellowjackets], Shelly Berg, Eddie Arkin, Béla Fleck, and Dick Hyman, who all guest as musicians (some of the tracks also incorporate unusual percussion such as a trash can and dog bowl). The original songs on Ages range from the hilarious to the heart-rending; Feather's lyrics cover a wide range of topics including marriage, death, B vitamins, long-held yearnings, grammar school, and Scrabble-commentaries on life as she has known it "from zero to sixty."
Lorraine Feather: vocals
Russell Ferrante: piano
Shelly Berg: piano
Dick Hyman: piano
Michael Valerio: bass
Grant Geissman: guitar
Eddie Arkin: guitar
Béla Fleck: banjo
Michael Shapiro: drums and percussion
Gregg Field: drums
Tony Morales: Dog bowl, trash can, additional percussion
Jazz-oriented singers who write even some of their own music are a relatively rare breed - and most of the few that try it are held back by insecurities. Nearly all of the ones I've heard are afraid to let their songs stand or fall on their own. As a way of hedging their bets, they introduce these songs at great length, so much so that by the time they finally start singing, the song itself starts to seem redundant - you feel like you've already heard it. One of the things I like best about Lorraine Feather, contrastingly, is that her songs are expertly crafted enough to be heard without any set-up. It's true that she does provide some highly-entertaining back story when he sings them live, but, you can put these songs to the acid test: stick them on your iPod (or iPhone or iWhatever), head down to your local Starbucks. Listen to these songs without any explanation or introduction, and you can still get the full impact of each and every lyric - completely on its own.
When you step back and ponder Ages from a distance, it seems like a fairly ambitious undertaking: an album that takes you through the stages of life, from childhood to middle age, told entirely in original songs. Yet, when you're actually listening to the record, none of this remotely matters - you get caught up in the stories themselves.
As serious as that sounds, one of the main reasons I keep listening to the album, and Lorraine's work in general, is the way she communicates humor in music.
More than any other contemporary singer or songwriter, Lorraine Feather has captured the heart and soul of the collective "I."