Ann Arbor Weather:
Saturday October 23, 2021
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Melissa Ferrick

Melissa Ferrick

Presence, charisma, connection

by Erick Trickey

From the April, 2004 issue

"I am a hopeless romantic / And I'm full of pretty lines," Melissa Ferrick sings on her 2001 album Valentine Heartache. That tells you a lot about Ferrick as a performer, but not the best news: though her albums can be spotty, her live show is terrific.

Three years ago, I left a Ferrick show totally drained, excited that one singer and acoustic guitarist with a drummer could match the intensity of a great rock 'n' roll show. A coworker I saw there raved about her too — but by the next week, she'd bought a Ferrick CD and hadn't liked it at all.

How can that be? Well, a lesser Ferrick lyric reads like a raw journal entry: wounded rants or pop philosophy, righteous but unpoetic. Ferrick's voice ranges from plaintive to brittle; her writing is angst ridden and earnest, her guitar strumming manic. On CD it sometimes seems overdone, as if she's reaching out of the speakers to grab you by the shirt and shake you.

But in concert Ferrick has a great presence, charisma, and connection with her audience. Her personal manifestos resonate, and her angry relationship songs turn cathartic when the fans sing along, consoling and consoled. And when Ferrick breaks into her best songwriting, when she finds a structure to carry her emotion, each line holding more power than the last, her guitar work flying faster and faster, it's thrilling, one of the best buzzes you can get from an acoustic-guitar slinger — as in this chorus:

Go ahead and tell your friends
It was a one-night stand
Tell them you were out of your head
Tell them we never made it to my bed . . .
But don't try to tell me
You didn't look in my eyes and say to me
Don't let go!


Ferrick's brief time on a major label, Atlantic, resulted in one overproduced album, 1993's Massive Blur,
...continued below...


and one charming album full of signature songs, 1995's Willing to Wait. Now, she releases albums on her own Right On label. Valentine Heartache is probably her best: it shows off her versatility as a guitarist and the sharpest variations on her favorite themes. But Ferrick seems to realize she's at her best in concert. Her new CD, 70 People at 7000 Feet, is her third live album.

Even more than most singer-songwriters, Ferrick's (and her fans') biggest dilemma is how to sustain a musical career fueled by romantic turmoil. "I'm sick of writing this song / About how love always disappears," she sang toward the end of the show I saw. So I'm happy to report that her last studio album, 2002's Listen Hard, finally proved she's equally talented at writing sweet, optimistic love songs. Let's hope that whatever relationship she was singing about is still going strong when she visits the Ark Sunday, April 18.     (end of article)

[Originally published in April, 2004.]

 


 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Networking & Career Development
Abercrombie & Fitch, Kasoa African Market
October 2021 Marketplace Closings
Micheline Maynard
Ann Arbor City Code
Writing Coach
When Adam Was spent the biggest game of the season on the bench, he was "hurt and confused."
Jan Schlain
Mystery Bins
Who's really collecting that used clothing?
Tim Athan
Ann Arbor's Forgotten Movie Star, by Tim Athan
Nightspots: Blind Pig
Qmin
Indian-Asian fusion on E. Liberty
Micheline Maynard
Superconductors
The A2SO's search for a new music director will play out in public this season.
arwulf arwulf
Restaurants with Diapering Facilities
A clickable zoomable map
a2view the Ann Arbor Observer's weekly email newsletter