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BWW CD Review: ALL WANDERING HEARTS Takes Nicole Zuraitis Fans On A Personal Journey

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When the art is this personal, people will react and relate.

BWW CD Review: ALL WANDERING HEARTS Takes Nicole Zuraitis Fans On A Personal Journey

They say that you should write what you know, and that is precisely what Nicole Zuraitis has done with her fourth album ALL WANDERING HEARTS. The cd tells the tale of life on the road as a musician, using seven Zuraitis-penned tunes and three covers, and this is definitely a road that music lovers will want to travel, reminiscent of the days when singers recorded albums with a throughline, like Carly Simon's Another Passenger or Carole King's Tapestry. No mere cd of random musical marbles sitting in a bowl on an end table is this - it is a slim volume of poetry, with each new sonnet scrupulously placed, in order for the story to be effectively understood. Addressing themes like loss and loneliness, exhaustion, balance, even mental illness, this look inside Ms. Zuraitis's mind fortunately never strays far from the optimism that would appear to be the place that she finds her most authentic self - a major boon to the remarkably enjoyable CD.

Nicole Zuraitis makes her name in the jazz industry, and having seen her perform, this writer appreciates the distinction. Another distinction, though, should be made: Nicole Zuraitis doesn't fit into a mold, and neither does her music. There is tangible proof on this album that Zuraitis is a world-class jazz musician, capable of changing time signatures and Herculean acts of musical expertise. There are times, though, when the listener will feel like they are hearing adult contemporary, Top Forty, coffee shop crooning, or even show music. Zuraitis has the skill and the mindset to allow each number to stand on its own, even as all ten tracks fit together as one. Like a sunrise dawning on a new day, the bright and bouncy "Make It Flood" introduces the theme of the album through powerfully descriptive language flowing in and around the jazz-infused pop sounds; ten songs later, the listener experiences Zuraitis's musical sunset, as "Send Me On My Way" soars like another musician on another plane flying off into a burning sky, rested and resigned to yet another tour. The enthusiastic vocals and band back-up on the number push the song out of the jazz realm and firmly into the world of adult-oriented rock, effectively, effortlessly, and oh-so-enjoyably.

The music that takes place between the two bookends runs the gamut of emotions and moods, as Zuraitis makes use of a voice so beautiful that it would break your heart if it weren't so accessible; while listening, you find yourself drawn in by the smooth eloquence of the sounds she makes, to say nothing of surprising acting skills that boldly and efficiently deliver each song's message through speakers and earphones. It's enough to make one wonder if Nicole Zuraitis has spent any time working as an actor, and what she would be like on a television show. Note the detached despair of "Overdrive Mind" and unbridled devotion of "Lullaby" for precision in the breadth of Nicole's emotional performances. While "Rock Bottom" focus on themes for which the title serves as a spoiler, the presentation remains ever hopeful - indeed, with the plethora of emotions expressed on the album, the only place that Zuraitis manages to fully avoid is anger, which may be an emotion that the prodigy finds uncomfortable, possibly within herself or possibly for her audience. This is one of the blessings on All Wandering Hearts because it keeps you in Nicole's corner, and an artist this affable deserves as big an audience in her corner as possible - she is simply that good.

It is difficult to choose a favorite moment on All Wandering Hearts because each song captures attention and affection through the beauty and individuality contained within them, but this writer will admit to being particularly interested in Nicole's hypnotizing new arrangement of "What a Wonderful World" that feels like you've gone to live, for three minutes, inside Zuraitis's heart - listen for the heartbeat because it's there for you to hear. There is also nothing as attractive as listening to a recording and thinking the lyrics are familiar, but not being able to place them until, finally, finally, finally, you realize it is your favorite song by Prince given a makeover, a new vibe, and new life. That's mastery in music.

It would be remiss to not mention the invaluable contribution made on the album by percussionist Dan Pugach, guitarist Idam Morim, Alex Busby Smith playing electric bass, Carmen Staaf on piano, and vocalists Thana Alexa and Elise Testone - were any of these musicians absent from the proceedings it would have affected the impressive quality of the music. Ms. Zuraitis sure knows how to pick 'em; and if this writer finds the album cover a little too busy, at least it gives the audience a crystal clear picture, before pressing the 'play' button, that they have signed up for an album of storytelling.

To tell your story is a beautiful thing. To do it in a manner that shows artistry, honesty, and authenticity is a great thing.

Greatness is not new to Nicole Zuraitis.

Nicole Zuraitis All Wandering Hearts is a 2020 release on the Dot Time Records label and is available on all streaming platforms.


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