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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: Atoosa Grey - When The Cardinals Come

Atoosa Grey - When The Cardinals Come
2009, Grey Matter Music

Atoosa Grey was born in Tehran, Iran and raised in New Jersey. These days she's a New York City-based singer/songwriter writing highly melodic and poetic songs and playing at venues such as Joe's Pub and The Living Room. As a first generation citizen of the US, Grey grew up with a rich blend of Iranian and American cultures and values. This is reflected deep in the imagery of her fourth album, When The Cardinals Come. As a child, Grey's mother believed birds were visiting spirits, but for Grey the red bird is a sign of hope and luck and recurs as a sign throughout the album.

When The Cardinals Come opens with All These Flowers, a gentle song done in an almost 1960's Folk/Rock style. The song is about waiting to find the right moment to come along; the moment when that special someone walks into your life. Neither urgent nor passive, it reflects someone at peace with the idea that the world will unfold when it’s ready. Great Big World seems to be about the conflict that happens at times between relationships and dreams, the choices we make that place one above the other. Grey's writing and performance are nuanced with a real lyrical flow, and the melody is gorgeous. When The Cardinals Come is a mature and pensive love song that sticks with the theme of biding time. The arrangement is beautiful, massaging your eardrums with each passage.

Grey's cover of Maggie May is very well done. Very few manage to match Rod Stewart's take on this particular tune, but Atoosa Grey is in the conversation. Grey gets prospective perspective on Yours, exploring what a relationship might be like if it were ideal. Yours is one of the most "real" feeling songs on the disc; melancholy with a bit of grit underscoring the depth of heartbreak between the lines. Drive is a bit of ear candy; to be honest I didn't even try to keep up with the lyrics. Listening to Grey's piano weave in and out of the other instrumentation like the lifeblood of the song was so enchanting that the rest didn't seem to matter. Melancholia returns on Radio, an esoteric song of moving on (or not). The narrator herself is unsure and vacillates between stay and go. While When The Cardinals Come starts out with a sense of peace and certainty that all will work out, Stars leaves the listener with another picture. Stars is written from a well of insecurity, a history of loss and a growing skepticism that all will work out right.

Atoosa Grey writes on many levels, and I suspect that if you sit five people down to listen to When The Cardinals Come you'd have a number of songs here that would end up with five interpretations. For me, When The Cardinals Come seems to dwell in the chasm that exists between hope and hopeless melancholy. Atoosa Grey manages to pluck all the strands of tragic beauty from the cloth that binds these two states and weaves them into elegant musical vignettes. When The Cardinals Come isn't necessarily an album you'll play incessantly when you first buy it, but I suspect it's one of those albums you'll still have and play regularly ten or twenty years from now; the musical version of a fine wine.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Atoosa Grey at or You can purchase When The Cardinals Come as either a CD or Download through

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