A Hawaii-born singer/songwriter records an album in Nashville and gives it a Japanese name. Such is the cultural complexity that folk artist Simone White brings to the table with her upcoming release, “Yakiimo.” While journeying through the U.S. with her folk-singer mother and sculptor father as a child, White must have been bitten by the travel bug because rarely has she stayed in one place for too long, calling Seattle, Pairs, London, New York, and finally, California home at one point or another. Must be hell to try to keep her on your Christmas card list, but at least you never have to worry about the nomadic artist taking too long between tours. She’s currently on the road in Europe with Victoria Williams and will be traversing the U.S. in early 2010 in support of “Yakiimo.”
The simple, introspective “Bunny in a Bunny Suit” is one of several tracks on “Yakiimo” written by White’s friends Frank Bango and Richie Vesecky, but it is the perfect introduction to the album’s reoccurring theme of adolescence. White’s vocals put into words the awkwardness of trying to figure out who one is while still in the process of transitioning from youth to adulthood. The theme continues with “Victoria Anne,” a track that recounts tales of small-town mischief, getting drunk on homemade gin and stripping naked to jump in the river, all sung with clipped, precise vocals reminiscent of Regina Spector. Even “Baby Lie Down With Me,” a song with a decidedly grown-up theme, references skinned knees and the games the song’s lovers used to play as children.
Another theme White explores on the album is, not-surprisingly, movement, usually away from something (or someone). The narrator in “Without a Sound” arrives home from a trip to Spain only to be forced to leave again, the girl in “A Girl You’ve Never Met” thinks “it’s finally time to go,” and the “she” referenced in “Let the Cold Wind Blow” is fine “as long as she’s moving.” “Yakiimo” is an album filled with both restlessness and nostalgia, a desire to leave and a yearning to return. White’s serene vocals and the abrupt endings to many of the songs on the album are dream-like in the sense that they are so full and real and then gone, surviving only in memory. Lucky for me, I can just hit “repeat” and relive the experience from Track 1.
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