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CD Reviews: Laura Shay
Laura Shay: To A Place
July 2005
By: Lauren Jonik
album cover of Laura Shay's To A Place

Even an old soul has to come of age. With descriptive lyrics accentuated by smoky vocals, Laura Shay's second full length CD, To A Place, shows that she is a woman with stories to tell, places to go and dreams to realize. Opening the album with On and On, Shay sets the emotional tone for the flow of the next twelve songs. The message is clear--- on whatever path life takes us, there are reasons that defy reason and passions that pull us along through the challenges of the day. Between the whispers and screams and everything in between, one word remains: continue. So I put my little smile on / It makes me sweet, negates what's wrong / And you don't give a damn about my songs / That's what keeps me going on and on and on.

The song Toronto details a road trip with friends and the discovery that travelling always changes us. Tell me how can I go back to what I know / After I've seen Toronto, Shay asks. Cresendoing the discovery process of self-empowerment, in Better Land Shay sings I wanna run through graveyards and I wanna wake the dead / I wanna forget the bullshit that I've been fed / I wanna turn reality into pretend / If you don't like it you can say you knew me when. Intimate, confessional and universal, You Take Me flows into the space where love and only love makes all things beautiful and safe. Because you take me / To a place where I can breath easily / To a place where I can see what's ahead of me / To a place where I can be anything. As she turns her attention to an inner life that is as equally as expansive as her dreams and passions are strong, Shay confides in Tired and Torn that her strength comes in many shapes and sizes--- including, paradoxically, vulnerability. My veil is wearing thin, my skin is not as thick as I pretend / Tired and I'm torn / My voice is softer than before / Only words, pieces of these thoughts that are not heard.

In Do You Know Who I Am Laura Shay charmingly wonders if the object of her affection from afar knows something more than just whether she is alive--- that she has the same drive that he does. Beneath the details that give a nod to Shay's native Philadelphia, it is a tale of the eternal quest to feel equal to those whom we admire. Beginning with gentle piano, Make Our Own Damn Rules, a song whose title alone could be Shay's theme, builds into a place where restlessness and faith meet on the breeze. With lyrics that conjure the pivotal scene in the movie Thelma and Louise, the song soars as it leaps into the unknown. I wanna leave this place and start anew / Forget the world, just me and you / Oh we'll leave the past and all we knew / Yeah we'll live and we'll love and we'll make our own damn rules. Our degree of self-empowerment is deeply and often subtlety united with our degree of self-acceptance. In Learning, Shay offers I'm learning to fly, learning to stand / I'm learning to use my voice and my hands / Learning to be happy with me. Closing the album, Shay's gaze peeks from behind the veil and wearing her flaws as badges of humanity, she muses I can be so artificial / I can be so temperamental / I can be oh so hard to handle, I know / Will you love me anyway? As she wonders if love can be unconditional and everlasting in a temporary world, Shay's clear voice floats to a place where sometimes, the questions we ask are as insightful as the answers.