by Mary Ann V
MAV Records, 2019
Reviewed by Anne Linstatter
How do we take care of ourselves in these pandemic times?
Music helps, and the tender songs in this new EP by singer-songwriter Mary Ann V speak to my heart.
“Be Kind to Strangers” is the first song on @MaryAnnVelocity and begins with an upbeat rhythm followed by three notes—a high E, F, G on the keyboard—which echo later after the words “Be kind” in the chorus. What better message for times like these, even as we interact behind masks?
“We are all just tenants here,” Mary Ann sings in “Evicted,” written after reading newspaper accounts of two drivers, each killed in random accidents involving “falling trees and flying cows.” The song’s theme is like a saying by Amma, the guru known for hugging: “This is a rented body. You could be asked to leave at any time. Only the soul is permanent.”
We face so much death in the news in 2020, the outcome of mistakes made by our government, random exposure to the Covid-19 virus, and the unique responses of our own bodies. As I listen to Mary Ann’s musical reflections, they match my own wonderment; I appreciate her lilting, soothing voice and style, which reminds me of Annie Lennox, Suzanne Vega, and Joni Mitchell.
This collection features four original compositions and a cover of “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. The Santa Monica Observer describes the album as “five songs that capture the essence of the human being: spiritual, physical, and intimate,” including elements of folk, pop, hip-hop, rap, and indie/rock-n-roll music.
“Who Made It That Way” recounts turning to the church as a child whose home was plagued by family violence: “I ran away to the church / A child alone / They didn’t want to know / What was going on.” In the music video of this song, haunting scenes of her singing inside St. Monica’s Catholic church contrast with aerial views of her walking proud and free on grassy cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, singing the refrain “Don’t tell me I’m wrong / I know what I’ve known / I’m not the one / Who made it be that way.”
Mary Ann chose St. Monica’s for the music video because Monica (c.331–387 CE) was married to a violent husband and survivors of abuse sometimes call on her, though she is a problematic figure, having counseled wives to stay in abusive marriages.
After the intensity of “Who Made It That Way,” the EP takes us to a lively electronic and vocal interpretation of “I Hope You Dance.” The heartening lyrics by Tia Sillers and Mark D. Sanders evoke a mother’s loving plea to her daughter: “Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance / and when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance / I hope you dance.”
“But I Wonder” memorializes a high school crush on a girl who didn’t return her affection and outed her, ultimately giving Mary Ann the courage to challenge heterosexual norms. With elusive lyrics and layered instrumental and electronic elements, this song reminds me of the complicated love themes in her earlier album, Too Close on Purpose, a collection of ten songs.
“Oh, This World” is my favorite from this album. In it, she tells the story of 24 hours, from a lovely sunset to dawn and coffee, a work day, and another sunset—complete with being cut off in traffic and seeing TV news of fatal domestic strife. In a delicate, expressive voice with acoustic guitar, she muses “Sometimes I feel so full of wonder / whether life isn’t just some spell that we’re under . . . / Help remind me not to forget / to watch the sunset / Oh, this world!” This song’s centerpiece is a cello solo played by Elisabeth Le Guin, professor of musicology at UCLA.
One of Mary Ann’s strengths is her ability to capture the paradoxes of life, both beauty and ugliness, in the same song—the contradictions that Rainer Maria Rilke celebrated as “O unerklarlichste, O Lebenzeit!” (O most unexplainable, O lifetime!).
Originally from Cleveland, she moved to California after high school and now lives in Santa Monica. Both @MaryAnnVelocity and Too Close on Purpose are available from Bandcamp.
For more of Mary Ann, visit her YouTube channel, Mary Ann V, which includes three exquisite pieces of electronic music, one with photos of ancient bridges, one with seaside and NASA photos, and one with a single photo called “Downtemple.”
Her music will ease your pandemic blues and remind you to “never take a single breath for granted.”
© 2020 by Christian Feminism Today.
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