Angela James makes gentle music for children—and their parents too | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Angela James makes gentle music for children—and their parents too 

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click to enlarge Angela James

Angela James

Marzena Abrahamik

For most parents, the phrase "children's music" triggers terrifying flashbacks to annoying sing-alongs—Raffi’s "Baby Beluga," for instance, or anything by that purple monstrosity, Barney. Fear not, though: Angela James's Quiet Night isn't that kind of children's music. The singer-songwriter developed the album while caring for her infant daughter and struggling with postpartum depression; its songs started out as melodic fragments she'd hum to try to get the baby to sleep. Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Charles Rumback on vibraphone, and Katherine Young on bassoon complement James's velvety voice on a series of soothing, melancholy tunes that slide between sorrow and hope, sleep and waking. On "You're Always at Home," James sings to her daughter, "I don't know what you know / I don't need what you need," even as she reassures her, "Though you may feel alone / I'm just a room away." And on “Sun and Moon,” she reflects on the bittersweet duality that one’s children are closer than one’s heart but start drifting away as soon as they’re out there in the world: "The center of my universe is wherever you are.” It’s not just a joyous sentiment but a terrifying one, no matter how gentle her delivery. James knows that in order for reassurances to work, you first need to acknowledge the dangers. Her album is a balm for children—and their parents too.   v

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