SW: The Road to Here
SW: "The Road to Here"

Song List: Brother John, Breaking the Victim, Over You, Leaving Lust, Rhyme, Sky, Turtle Lady, Ricochet, Hold On

She didn’t mean for it to begin so quickly. After moving from California to New York City in hopes of developing her career as a singer/songwriter/pianist, SW booked studio time intent on recording a few songs for a demo. Surprisingly, nine songs later, she wound up with a full-length debut entitled The Road to Here. The album introduces us to SW by taking listeners on a literal and sentimental pilgrimage across the country in search of a dream.

What makes this album special is SW, herself. Fans cling to her voice, classically trained yet with a folk singer’s timbre, and her songs that tell true stories of love’s pain and the growth we experience because of it. She tells each tale poetically, putting to words the emotions we’ve all experienced but have difficulty expressing. Her piano sets the tone in each of these stories, her delicate playing neither simple nor virtuosic, just intricate enough to communicate the message.

She writes about her own life, but SW doesn’t travel her musical road alone. In contrast to her emotionally vagabond lyrics, she knows well how to assemble a cohesive, talented band. Though she sometimes “borrows” Lisa Loeb’s bassist for live shows, it is Rich Wagor’s dreamy upright bass playing that appears on eight of the nine tracks (Whiskeytown bassist, Mike Santoro, steps in on “Breaking The Victim”). Jim Bove, who was one of my favorite NYC drummers before he headed to the left coast last year, delivers his trademark crisp and deliberate beats, his timing dead on. And the only question surrounding guitarist Pat Glynn is why he hasn’t been snatched up by major label act for touring. He crafts his innovative, ambient, feedback-driven sounds on Road… to near perfection, topped only by his performance on SW’s second album, The Turning Point, due out in the Fall of 2002.

From SW’s own voice and piano to each member of her handpicked band, the album is remarkable for its superb musicianship. The songs are beautiful if a bit somber, the exception being “Ricochet,” which drives us through the album’s most aggressive moments. Much of The Road to Here is reflective, thought-filled and sobering—perfect for a quiet night’s listen. And just as you think you’ve delved too deep into your own psyche, “Hold On” brings you back out with its words of consolation, hope and promise. The Road to Here gives the listener an emotional cleansing in less than forty minutes, quite an accomplishment from a recording originally meant to be a mere club demo.

Reviewed on 7/19/02