Artist: Marianne Kesler
Title: Pear in the Pink Thing
By L. Anne Carrington
It's always nice to see an artist such as Marianne Kesler put out a quality acoustic album of heartfelt, compelling songs, and she has re-released her sixth CD, Pear In The Pink Thing.
There is no question that Kesler has put heart, soul, and effort into this release. Take a listen to the two strongest tracks, "Neon Moon," and "Still Small Sadness," for starters. Other great songs include the opener, "Mystery," and the album's final cut, "The Needle and the Damage Done," but when it comes down to the bottom line, all twelve songs are brilliant with their poetic lyrics, stellar production and first-rate music.
Pear in the Pink Thing can fit into any pop, alternative, and even college rock radio quite nicely, and so many influences of many well-known artists can be picked up in the majority of the tracks.
As she likes to state it, imagine if Joni Mitchell got together with Leonard Cohen for a writing session at the coffeehouse where Counting Crows and Neil Young were playing, Jan Krist was singing, Tori and Fionna were pouting, Over The Rhine and Aimee Mann opened, and Santana stopped by to play some smoking guitar.
Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to describe this album myself. This is one CD that will keep listeners coming back for more.
Marianne Kesler - Pear In The Pink Thing
2007, Cool Spirit Publishing
Ohio native Marianne Kesler has been a darling of the folk, coffeehouse and college circuits for the better part of two decades. Starting out in 1993, Kesler has culled a reputation as a highly personal, and personable, songwriter whose imagery shines through her songs. Pear In The Pink Thing is a collection of ten original tunes and 2 Neil Young covers; Kesler went for a stripped down motif this time around to make the songs more reproducible in a solo-live setting. The result is a sonically gorgeous and highly intimate set that is as artistically articulate as it is accessible.
Mystery starts things out in a fine, pop-laden folk arrangement about coming out of your shell and being your own person, and not justifying it to the world. This song is a tremendous declaration of self without sounding imposing or in-your-face; it's all about the protagonist and no one else. Kesler has one of those voices you could listen to all day, the perfect mix of sultry, sweet and an earthy stillness that is comforting. Every Time is a perfect example of this mix in a song that is by turns sultry, vulnerable and verging on frustration. Poets Dream is structured like a dream, opening with tendrils of thought said to music that coalesce into a coherent idea before fading away into fractal thoughts.
My favorite song on the disc is Catch Me If You Can. There is a certain pathos to this song; The protagonist is a leaf or a bit of dandelion fluff or a person whose thrill is being chased. There is a daring quality to the song that seeks to be caught and loves the chase, but the chase is much too interesting here, and you know inevitably that once captured there will soon be another chase, if it ever stops in the first place. 2 O'Clock is another must-hear, written in a classic finger-pick arrangement, this might be the best writing on the album. Kesler's inclusion of Ohio had more to do with it being associated with her home state than anything else, but it is particularly apropos in our current timeline. Kesler's reading of the song is impeccable, adding a little more swing to it than the original but staying with the same essential flavor. The Needle And The Damage Done was chosen in tribute to Kesler's father and his struggles with drug addiction. That personal investment shines through on a rendition that is practically electrifying.
Marianne Kesler is a first-class talent. Kesler doesn't need to be flashy to get your attention; her strong, clear voice relays thoughts and emotion in gorgeous tones that leave you on the edge of your seat. As a songwriter Kesler's work is top-notch. Pear In The Pink Thing is a second coming-of-age album. Most artists who record for any length of time will have more than one. Kesler has always been a strong songwriter with highly personal songs, but with Pear In The Pink Thing she has crossed the line from good to great. I won't be surprised if Kesler is eventually considered one of the essential female singer/songwriters of folk music.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Marianne Kesler at http://www.pearinthepinkthing.com/ or www.myspace.com/mariannekesler. You can purchase a copy of Pear In The Pink Thing at www.cdbaby.com/cd/kesler6, or you can download the album through iTunes.
Pear in the Pink Thing
By Jason Thompson
Folk popster Marianne Kesler has made an enjoyable album here, with her warm, inviting voice at the fore of the mix and the rest of the production having a very live feel to it. It’s always easy to compare female folk artists to prior greats such as Suzanne Vega, etc., but at the same time why not do that when it’s justified? Indeed, “Mystery” is one of those tunes Vega or someone like Natalie Merchant could have written just as easily. “Still Small Sadness” recalls Lynn Canfield of Area and The Moon Seven Times with equally enticing results. “Neon Moon” goes for a jazzier feel, with its percussion and arrangement being not too far removed from Joni Mitchell during her Hissing of Summer Lawns era. Kesler closes the album with two Neil Young tunes. “Ohio” and “The Needle & The Damage Done.” The former may not have been the wisest choice, as Kesler’s voice doesn’t really deliver the grit for the subject matter, but the latter fares better. Yet it’s the original tunes here that truly shine. Good stuff, indeed.
Marianne Kesler has produced one of the most deceptive albums of the 21st Century with Pear in the Pick Thing. At first, it sounds like any other of a few thousand soft rock albums of past years, but a few songs in you begin to realize that it really doesn't. There is a depth to Kesler's music which slowly sinks in and carries you away and that, seriously, does not happen often. Odds are against it happening here, but it does.
Kesler's voice is pleasant, but not overwhelming. The songs she writes are good, but not overwhelming. The musicianship is good, but not overwhelming. You think. But there is a stealth in Pear, a stealth probably not planned, but definitely realized. This album does not stand on the sum of its parts. It stands, and stands strongly, on the sum, period.
The heart, of course, is the music. Surrounded by the other blood organs—Kesler's excellent phrasing and unassuming delivery, the exceptional musicianship of J. Benjamin Kesler (who plays most instruments, and there are plenty), and the basic themes and feel of the songs—that heart beats strong. Add to those the absolutely outstanding production job by J. Benjamin and you have an album of note.
Marianne Kesler lays out ten originals so impressively that after numerous listens, I don't want to hear them individually. In the biz, it is called sequencing. You organize the songs in sequence with varying gaps between in hopes of creating something more than just—there is no better way to put this—a sequence of songs. It could not have been more successful. From one through ten, you get Kesler unveiled, as it should be.
I'm sure there are critics out there who will jump on the inclusion of her "Here's two Neil Young" tracks which end the album. Truth is, I was ready to pan them, not being interested in two-bit covers of classics. I am now eating the two-bits. Kesler's handling of Young's songs is masterful and understated. Ohio is just off the mark enough to make it more than just a cover (the ending is too short, but it hits the mark) and Kesler's voice on The Needle and the Damage Done is downright eerie with its Neil Young-like wavering tones.
I wish I could come up with some profound phrase which would have people busting down Internet doors in search of "Pear in the Pink Thing." Not for Marianne Kesler—she has to be very pleased with the album—but for those who constantly bemoan the supposed fact that there just isn't that much good music out there anymore. It is supposed, not fact. In fact, here it is.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Marianne Kesler, Pear in the Pink Thing
April 8, 2009
This Acoustic Singer/Songwriter has been going strong since the ‘90s and now offers the re-release of her sixth record titled, Pear in the Pink Thing. Strong is the key word here especially for Kesler who had to undergo treatment for her condition known as cervical spondylosis. Pure determination and will power pour out of Kesler and in turn relish into poetic notes. Her ailment sidelined her for many months, but now she is ready to fight and prove to herself and her fans who she is as an artist. Through the words and sounds Marianne Kesler creates, let the battle begin.
The album comes across as being overly personal and stripped down to the core, leaving Kesler alone to bear her soul through song. The style is definitely of an acoustic quality, but mixed with folk-like tendencies and a splash of lite, savvy rock. Marianne Kesler contributes to lead vocals, background vocals and acoustic guitar while J. Benjamin Kesler adds to the mix more acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, Wurlitzer, keys, banjo, drum loops and programming, percussion and background vocals on “Big Love”. The two artists have made pleasurably subtle music for the listening ears.
The title of the record, Pear in the Pink Thing happens to be a literal meaning according to M. Kesler. When she was traveling by car with her road guitarist she ate one pair. She wanted to save the other one, so she saved it from bruising by covering it with a pink glass in the car’s cup holder. Literal as they come, but it now holds a special place for Kesler and her fans via her website www.pearinthepinkthing.com: “Sometimes being an artist is a lonely place to live. We feel things so deeply and have an almost driven need to express ourselves. We may or may not be understood. Be it so, we were made for such as this. Sometimes it feels like being the pear in the pink thing.” Amazing that an idea so simple and literal could in turn be so abstract and meaningful. This is what M. Kesler does through her music, to take every ounce out of every simple idea and turn it into something distinctly memorable. This is the sheer potency behind her musical abilities—The Poetic Side.
Kesler also tackles two songs by Neil Young that she holds dear to her heart, “Ohio” and “The Needle & The Damage Done”. The approach was very soft-spoken with fruitful harmonizing. Anybody for a Pear in the Pink Thing? I would recommend at least taking a bite for yourself.
For more on Marianne Kesler and her poetic album, SKOPE out www.pearinthepinkthing.com.
By Jimmy Rae
Rating: 3 stars
Marianne Kesler: Pear in the Pink Thing
reviewed by Marti Kramer Suddarth - 249 words
Fans of Marianne Kesler (and those hearing her for the first time) will love her newest CD, the quirkily titled "Pear in the Pink Thing ." Ten original songs plus two Neil Young covers show off Marianne's cozy voice, her observant eye, and her poetic turn with words.
Like "Green Room," its predecessor, "Pear in the Pink Thing" features at-times-spare, acoustic guitar based instrumentals that occasionally hint at a late-1960's/early-1970's folk feeling, though less so than "Green Room," while sounding firmly grounded in the twenty-first century. Additional instrumentation is added more frequently than on "Green Room," yet in well-balanced doses. It's an intimate sound, perfectly coordinated with Marianne's voice, and easily reproduced on stage. The guitars are played by Marianne and son Benjamin, who also plays every other instrument on the tracks, except for drums on "Every Time," provides some of the background vocals, and serves as producer and engineer.
"Pear in the Pink Thing" is also more secular than "Green Room." The inclusion of both religious and secular themes is smooth and not the least bit contrived. The lyrics reflect a life that eats, drinks, breathes, sleeps, experiences joy and sorrow, falls in love, and feels frustration - events common to the human condition.
Although Marianne's own compositions are well-written and performed - particularly "Poets Dream" - the listener is given an extra treat at the end. Neil Young's "Ohio" and "The Needle and the Damage Done" are so well adapted to Marianne's style that she's made them her own.
CD: Pear in the Pink Thing (2007)
Artist: Marianne Kesler www.pearinthepinkthing.com
Length: 12 tracks / 44:40 minutes
I first heard ‘Pear in the Pink Thing’ in its entirety online at the website Marianne has dedicated to her latest release - www.pearinthepinkthing.com (what a great idea!). The website contains mp3’s of all songs on the album in their entirety. This is the sixth release for singer-songwriter & acoustic guitarist Marianne Kesler out of Ohio and, as her song ‘Catch Me If You Can’ suggests, she is not in the least slowing down musically-speaking.
‘Pear in the Pink Thing’ continues in some ways in the direction that her previous release ‘Green Room’ began; i.e. intelligent pop rock with Marianne’s poetic-folk sensibilities.
The opening track ‘Mystery’ is CD single material – a great upbeat song with a bridge that contains her raison d’etre or reason-for-being artistically-speaking – ‘Making (sweet) music from the inside out’. The song that keeps going around in my head is ‘Once More’ – striking lyrics and beautiful, almost-haunting music. Lyrics like that of the chorus: -
‘I will rise like the phoenix to fly once more,
On brave new wings that reach and soar.
And I’ll find what I was created for
Once more…Once more.’
God is the One Who purifies or refines us as He did with the prophet Isaiah with the application of burning coal to his lips by one of the seraphs. This song reminds me a little of ‘Unrefined’ – one of my favourites from ‘Green Room’ because of its sheer honest and openness. ‘Every Time’ could also be a CD single – I love the bluesy guitar accompaniment. ‘Still Small Sadness’, a radio-friendly ballad and a personal favourite, has a great lead break and a moving keyboard accompaniment that I swear sounds just like a cello.
‘Poets Dream’ has a great glockenspiel accompaniment. The song ends with a reference to the apostle Peter’s Pentecost Day message in which he quotes the prophet Joel’s prophecy about the increased outpouring of the Spirit in the last days: ‘Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams.’ ‘2 O’clock’ appropriately has a musical accompaniment that actually sounds like the ticking of a clock. The fourth radio-friendly song of the album is ‘Big Love’. This is the (pardon the pun) big ballad of the album, just as ‘Melt Down’ was for the ‘Long Road Home’ album – one of my absolute fav ballads of all time (please excuse me for getting personal).
The CD clocks in at a nice 44 minutes and 40 seconds. As a kind of encore, Marianne finishes the album with two Neil Young songs – ‘Ohio’ & ‘The Needle & The Damage Done’ (a kind of tribute to her late father) – making an excellent album even better. As Marianne acknowledges, Neil Young’s music has been a significant influence in her life and these two remakes are a real treat for Neil Young fans – ones that Neil Young himself would be proud of.
What is evident from this release (as in previous releases) is the poetry, the musicianship & the production of these songs. These songs stand alone as poems in their own right (even without the music) – which can’t be said of a lot of today’s visually-dependant music. The cover art by Mellissa Rae Saffer is wonderful, as is the photography by Hoi. One would again have to tip the hat to J. Benjamin Kesler for his top-notch musicianship and production skills.
Frank Rasenberger September 2007