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Tuesday Reviewsday: Sweet Relief, Carly Ritter, Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd

Musician Carly Ritter.
Musician Carly Ritter.
Carly Ritter

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Now it's time for Tuesday Reviewsday, our weekly new music segment. Joining the show this week is critic Steve Hochman.

We have a theme this week, which coming right after the 9/11 anniversary and the Jewish High Holidays, is fitting: Healing.

Artist: Various
Album: Sweet Relief III Pennies from Heaven
Songs: "A Change is Gonna Come" by Victoria Williams, "Don't Let Us Be Sick" by Jackson Browne

Sweet Relief was founded in 1993 by Victoria Williams, after a bunch of musicians — Eddie Vedder, Lou Reed, Neil Young among them -- did an album of songs to help her after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The organization grew out of that, helping musicians in need with medical costs. A second album for paraplegic singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt came out in 1996. This, 17 years later, is the third. Rather than helping a specific artist, the theme of this one is support and assistance. Brought together by producer Sheldon Gomberg, cover art by Peter Max.


Artist: Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd
Album: Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project
Songs: "Dream of an Ex-Ranger," "Dreams in Color"

Jazz pianist-composer Vijay Iyer teamed with poet-performer Mike Ladd, creating pieces from actual dreams collected from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Iyer, Indian-American born and raised in Rochester NY, is one of the most wide-ranging, innovative young figures in jazz and well beyond, Ladd is equally innovative in his fields. The two have collaborated on two earlier projects addressing issues of post-9/11 America, questions of color and the 24-four-hour news culture. This piece, commissioned by and premiered at the Harlem Stage in New York, is essentially an oratorio — not really jazz or any other genre per se, but something unto itself and completely true to the source material.  

Artist: Carly Ritter
Album: Carly Ritter
Songs: "It is Love"

Wrapping up our theme is a song from the debut album by Carly Ritter, who is the daughter of John Ritter, the beloved actor who died unexpectedly a few years ago, and granddaughter of country and western great Tex Ritter. The connection to her grandfather is there a little in some of the songs, more hints of country than full on. Rather she echoes more the ‘70s women singer-songwriters who drew on country, Linda Ronstand and such.

The wistful cover photo even looks like it could be a Ronstadt or maybe Crystal Gayle album. But under the wings of producers Joachim Cooder, son of Ry Cooder, and Julliette Comager, the songs cut across genres and eras, from dreamy romantic pop of the early ‘60s to colorful ambiences of such current figures of Neko Case. It’s Ritter’s personality, winsome, earthy, unaffected, that boosts carries both the writing and performances, though, even more so in person as at a recent Hotel Cafe record release performance.