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|The Price of Freedom: Keri Noble, October 26 at the Freight House|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Written by Jeff Ignatius|
|Wednesday, 22 October 2008 02:27|
The Keri Noble that was introduced to the world in 2004 is not the full Keri Noble.
On the new Leave Me in the Dark, Noble's first recording for the Telarc label, it's evident the singer/songwriter/pianist wanted to offer a better sense of her breadth as an artist. The dynamic EP, released in May, should obliterate the impression left by her constrained major-label debut four years ago.
When Noble performs as part of a trio at Nan's Piano Bar in the Freight House Complex on Sunday, expect a range from introspective solo piano to full-throated soul, hitting most spots between. While her current label can't put the same resources behind her as the old one did, it has offered freedom.
As part of the EMI corporate structure, Noble said, "I was just one of a million artists," including Norah Jones. And while she wouldn't speak specific ill of her former label and said she had many good experiences, Noble said she was uncomfortable with the conflict between her artistic goals and the need to sell records.
Fearless, her 2004 album for the Manhattan subsidiary of EMI, was geared to a certain singer/songwriter audience, and "I couldn't tour a super-ballad-heavy record at rock clubs."
So she incorporated "bigger" songs into her sets. Audiences, she said, "loved it, but I didn't have anything available to them that was a recorded version of that."
That explains the diversity of Leave Me in the Dark, which works more as a stylistic sampler than a whole.
Its six songs include a jaunty warning in the spirit of Fiona Apple's work with Jon Brion, scorching electric soul with the force of Joan Osborne, radio-friendly adult-alternative pop, a pair of blue ballads, and a deeply-felt torch song. While Noble's songwriting style and singing voice recall other artists, the range of things she does well is impressive.
"It's more reflective of the many sides," she said of the EP and her February 2009 full-length. "It has some elements of pop, there's some singer/songwriter kind of songs, and definitely a lot of soul.
"I think the EP is a really great reflection of what will be the full-length. ... It's a great teaser - my touring calling card."
Noble was granted a release from her contract with EMI - "It was like an adult good divorce," she said - and thought at that point that she would be happy being an independent artist, even if it only meant having a weekly gig at a club: "When I left EMI, I didn't think I wanted to do music with a label again."
But Telarc lured her, and she said it's a different culture. "At first I was a little hesitant. ... They do things differently," she said, noting that the label only chooses artists for whom it's willing to work. "They gave me a home that I didn't think I wanted anymore."
It helps that she's not competing for the label's attention or marketing efforts with artists working in a similar style."I don't think they even have another artist that does the kind of music I do," she said.
She sent the label roughly 30 songs - two years of work - and from that material the artist and the company crafted both the album and the EP, which share no songs.
"I think they also passed the songs out within their company to get feedback," she said. "They're a small company, but they seem to want everybody who's involved in the process to feel involved, because they're going to be working the project."
While some artists struggle to pare down material for release, Noble said the process was relatively simple in this case. The label agreed to release an EP - "I just thought, ‘It would be kind of great to give the other songs a little bit of life, as well'" - and they then compared notes.
"I made my dream list, and then my EP dream list, and they made theirs," Noble said, "and we were on the same page for almost all the songs."
She said the album's selections were "the obvious choice. ... These are just my strongest songs."
But she doesn't want to diminish the EP: "The full-length is going to sound a lot like a bigger sister to the EP," she said.
And even though barely more than half of the songs she produced over the past few years are slated for release, she said she recently recorded 10 new ones. "I like to just stay ahead of things so that there's always music to choose from," she said.
As for the unused tracks, "they'll show up at some point. I don't know where they'll show up, but I can't imagine you can ever have too many songs."
Keri Noble will perform on Sunday, October 26, at Nan's Piano Bar in the Freight House (421 West River Drive in Davenport). The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $5.
For more information on Noble, visit KeriNoble.com.
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