Thursday, December 18, 2014

Phyllis Sinclair - Wishlist (2013)

Little known Phyllis Sinclair is a singer-songwriter with four CDs to her name. The latest is Wishlist (2013), a Christmas album with eight originals and an adaption of "Silent Night" that takes a deeply personal and introspective turn.

Interesting songs abound. The bouncy "Evergreen" is a about a ragged, unloved tree not chosen to be in someone's house during the holidays and "Handwritten Christmas Card" is another upbeat entry on the thrill of receiving such a personal greeting in the mail.

Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, "A Lesson In Harmony/Silent Night" begins with a spoken word tale of how Sinclair's mother asked her to sing one of the World's most popular Christmas carols at home as a lesson in how to sing harmony and she closes the story with all three verses of the song.

I don't know Sinclair's religious beliefs but it's obvious she has given spiritual matters more than a cursory thought because of her unique song, "Mary's Letter To Joseph." Lyrically, it's the most interesting track on the set. The letter is Mary's sincere thank you note to Joseph for standing by her through a very difficult time, an unexplained pregnancy, a situation that could have taken a devastating turn against both her reputation and life if he had been a different man.

Sinclair is a member of the Cree Nation and a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The disc's first track, "Minoh Awasis (Beautiful Child)" was written in the Cree language featuring just rattle, drum, and traditional flute. It salutes her roots while telling the story of the first Christmas night. It's not anything you'll ever hear on the radio and it's the only song on the album that a listener may want to pass on, but once you know her cultural perspective it becomes a much more rewarding listen. Unfortunately, the English translation that she so generously provided to me is not included in the CD's packaging.

Sinclair is a pure folk singer blessed with a fine voice who uses her life as a basis for many of her compositions. Home, family, and Christmas mean a lot to her and the album mixes all of these themes together into a more than satisfying, thirty-seven minute program that tugs at your heart without sounding overly sentimental. Wishlist isn't rock 'n roll but, I like it.

You can buy Wishlist at Amazon and visit Sinclair's website for a detailed biography.

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