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CD Reviews - Celia Chavez
Celia Chavez: Sailor's Daughter
April 2008
By: Emily Ignacio
album cover of Celia Chavez's Sailor's Daughter

Celia Chavez's latest CD, Sailor's Daughter, sonically reflects the beauty and unpredictability of the oceans on which her father sailed. In it, Chavez takes the listener onto a sometimes smooth, sometimes tumultuous, always contemplative journey through love, loss, dreams, memories, and nostalgia. Yet, Sailor's Daughter is unique in that, throughout the entire album, the mixture of disparate musical genres, the subtlety of dissonant chords, and tempo changes over an always smooth, soothing voice masterfully captures irony.

Fear of Falling Leaves is a prime example of this. Don't be fooled by Chavez's beautifully, smooth vocals and delivery, the playful Latin beats and basslines. Nothing is hidden through inarticulation or through metaphor. All is out there: I can see the chill across your face/your confusion at the planet's ways/But the trees know there is no disgrace/ to become disrobed. Will you stay to see the green again?/Seasons change and seasons end/Why hide from clouds or run from rain/when rain is what the dry earth needs?. If you stay I promise you will lose/ your fear of Falling Leaves. If a tree could be this brave/for us it could be the same.We will laugh when we remember when/we were afraid of falling leaves. All of it, rain/sunshine, budding/falling leaves is, simply, present in Life and Love. Find your joy and color once again/ in your own free fall. . .she croons. Period. Yet, this is no derivative of the Byrd's Turn! Turn! Turn! or for that matter the Book of Ecclesiastes on which that song is based. Chavez never lies to her listeners and implies that it is easy. Though wise, it is refreshingly, brutally-- smirkingly even-- honest. At points where one seemingly derives hope, the lines are accompanied by a minor chord. Similarly, at points when one seemingly experiences sadness or confusion, the vocal is accompanied by a happy sounding major chord.

Such is the message of the song and, indeed, the entire album it seems. Just when one thinks one is achieving some sort of pattern of normalcy - bam! - the weather changes. In this bedlam, there is the one, objective pattern we all can be sure of: things can and will change. Knowing, accepting, embracing this truism-- and letting go-- will help us all to gracefully get through all our seasons. Similarly, PT Barnum (both the song and the reprise) captures the quizzical, circus-like absurdity that sometimes plagues even the best of relationships and accepting that these dizzying ups and downs are actually (unfortunately?) or, perhaps, jokingly, just quite normal. As in Fear of Falling Leaves and all the other songs on this album, Chavez and all the musicians involved masterfully choose different musical genres (sometimes within one song) which not only enhance Chavez's beautiful soothing vocals but emphasize the messages in her lyrics. Similarly, the percussion and guitar in, Dream of a Sailor, for example evokes images of young sailors' idealistic, almost aggrandizing, ideas regarding "the key to freedom [the sailor] had found." Yet, not all the songs bring out the "headiness" in me. The remake of Andy William's Moon River is simply beautiful.

Sailor's Daughter is, ultimately, about survival, living, and laughing with all Life hands you. It is about keeping one's composure, about holding, dearly, onto dreams, hopes, and joys through ups and downs, twists and turns, in relationships and other life events, and sailing as smoothly as one can through it all.