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18 Jan 10 The Truth Is

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By John South

On the back porch of a house in a small Texas town, a little girl sat and dreamed of playing guitar and being a singer.   She made up songs – singing through the day.  She listened to the music of Joni Mitchell – she wanted to be just like her, to sing just like her.  She also found inspiration in the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  Jeanie Sliva grew up loving music – any music other than country music.

Then, as fate would have it, a friend invited her to travel to Nashville; that’s when she “heard” country for the first time.  Actually she had heard country music all her life, she heard it in a different way.  She realized that she had a new musical direction to explore.

In 2000, Sliva concentrated on a song for a group like Boys to Men.   She spent an entire year working on the song and received a single song contract.  She had a bite from Sony in NY for Mandy Moore, but the song went no further.

The question they asked, however, shocked her, “Do you have anything else?”  Sliva learned a very valuable lesson at that point in her music career – the importance of having a song catalog.  She has dedicated herself since to developing her craft and her songs.

Sliva tells us that she learned another very valuable lesson from her early experience in Nashville.  She went into the process of writing country songs thinking that writing country was easy.  She found that that certainly wasn’t the case.  It fact, she found the writing of country to be humbling.

Having fallen in love with Nashville, the city as well as the music, Sliva took advantage of many of the opportunities to learn about the craft.  She has attended several of the songwriter workshops offered in Nashville which she has found extremely insightful about the craft of writing music.  She has also attended the pitches to producers to see what others are writing. 

The song critiques were the hardest part of writing songs for Nashville.  Though she felt she had a pretty good product, Sliva found through her first song critique how difficult writing a quality country was going to be.  Nashville offered up its own version of tough love.  But she persevered and rewrote, and rewrote.  The efforts are reflected in her new album, Truth Is…

One of the efforts that Sliva has found fulfilling in her effort to develop her craft is to join organizations like the Austin Songwriters Group and the Nashville Songwriters Association International where she is a member of the North Texas Chapter.  In each organization, she finds the kind of social networking, learning and inspiration that helps her move forward in her craft. 

How do you describe Sliva’s music?  Is it country?  Is it pop? Is it folk? 

If you look at her current musical influences, K. D. Lang, Alison Krauss, Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, and Keith Urban, you would think that she is country; however, like most Texas musicians, Sliva is the amalgam of many different musical approaches.  You hear a lot of country, but you still hear the Joni Mitchell and Lucinda Williams influence.   You also feel the pop influences of the Beatles, the Stones and others from her earlier musical development.  Overall, though, you hear a well-developed musical talent.

Sliva’s new album, Truth Is…, illustrates how much the combination of a hardworking songwriter, a group of talented musicians and impressive producer can accomplish.  Each track is well-polished with each vocals and instrumentation supporting each other.  The producer, Patrick McGuire out of his studios in Arlington, TX, assembled the perfect set of musician for Sliva’s album:

Rocky Dribble – acoustic and electric guitars, banjo
Milo Deering – dobro, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar, pedal steel and lap steel
Lou Carfa – acoustic and electric bas
Brent Dacus – drums, percussion
Roland Elbert – piano
Joey Carter – piano, percussion
Brad Neher – piano and B3 organ

Supporting Sliva and the instrumentalists is Andrea Wallace providing the backup vocals.

The album, itself, is well-composed – each song supporting the others.  Sliva brought together 12 significant examples of her work.  The opening work, The One You Keep, starts off with a guitar riff that immediately draws you into the song and the album.  The song provides a good foundation for what is to follow. 

Softer, the second track, Take You There, provides an intimate conversation between the singer and her love.  You really feel like the singer is talking directly to you.  The chorus is the vocal equivalent of the singer reaching out to take you by the hand and walking with you down to the place that she finds special. 

Stolen Moment highlights the yearning of one who can’t quite catch the heart of the one she desires.  This is another example of Sliva’s softer works.  It is highlighted by the steel work of Milo Deering which really emphasizes the yearning in the singer’s heart.

Sweet Memories is one the best offerings on the album.  From the lyrics to the instrumentation this song really highlights the qualities of the artists.  The fiddle and steel work help to develop the emotion of the singer.  You feel her pain, her desire to really hold on to someone that she’s lost.

The fifth track, I Can’t Let It Go, follows with some of the same emotion that Sliva developed in Sweet Memories – love lost.  You can feel the pain in the singer’s heart as she continues to reach out to her lover trying to recapture the lost love.

Beautiful Girl is one of Sliva’s more recognized pieces.  It won the September, 2006 “Song of the Year” competition in the Pop category.  The song reminds you of your early days of being in love, when you could not keep your girl out of your mind, or out of your heart.  An interesting aspect of this song is that the reference to “beautiful girl” is how you view her beauty in your mind.  She may not have that Swedish model kind of beauty, but in your heart she is someone that you can’t live without – “there’s no one like her in this whole wide world. “

I’d Give Anything also explores the love the artist feels for her love. She is reaching out try to find a way to bring her love back.  You’ll enjoy the production work on this track.  In combination with the melodic tones of the singer, the producer has added in harmonics and strong reverb in parts of the song to really emphasize the sense of loss. 

Your Choice presents a sharp approach to the music led by the percussionist and fiddle work.  Each instrument is played with something of a staccato attack to illustrate the singer’s hurt as she’s tries to pull the pieces of her life back together after her lover made his choice.  The fiddle, in particular, guides you through the work, taking you up and down with the singer’s emotion.

Truth Is is a very elegant song, again, one of the best tracks on the album.  Lyrically very romantic, it reminds you of the classic country tunes that graced the halls of the Ryman Auditorium in the day.  With the exquisite piano work of Roland Elbert and the heart wrenching steel work of Milo Deering, Sliva presents a strong performance with lyrics and music that opens her heart and pain to the listener. 

The album finishes strongly with Heart of Gold, an acoustic version of I Can’t Let It Go, and Heaven Bound.  Each shows another dimension of the musical talent of Sliva.  In the first two songs, she shows the difficulties of love, being in love and staying in love.  In Heaven Bound, Sliva changes directions slightly by taking us through an internal journey of searching for self.  The answer is not just religion, but in how we treat our fellow man.  Andrea Wallace adds a strong spoken part in the middle of the song that drives the point home, “Coretta Scott King quoted her husband at a speech in 2003 where she said, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  That’s where the “Truth Is.”

Overall, Truth Is is an excellent debut album for Sliva.  Her songs take us through the emotional thread of love – love found, love struggling and love lost.  McGuire blended the elements of Sliva’s song in a manner that each instrument and each voice adds something to the composition.  When asked what she thought of the finished album, Sliva just smiled (that same proud smile that you give your child when they accomplish something great).  Anyone listening to Sliva’s album will get that same sense of pleasure. 

You can learn more about Jeanie Sliva on her MySpace site, and on Sonic Bids.  The album is available on iTunes  and at CD Baby.

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