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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: Mona Sterling - Lay Down Your Weapons

Mona Sterling - Lay Down Your Weapons
2009, Sterling Creative Enterprises

Seattle's Mona Sterling is known for her arresting voice and percussive guitar style. Comparisons to Melissa Etheridge, Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) and even Ani DiFranco are unsurprising, and Sterling writes with an emotional honesty that is refreshing. A songwriter from the age of five, Sterling has been influenced by everything from Carmen to Led Zeppelin, and allows everything she's taken in to flow back out in her music. Sterling's debut album, Lay Down Your Weapons, illuminates the talent of a singer-songwriter who shines even amidst the glow of the Emerald City.

Lay Down Your Weapons opens with the contemplative rocker Something Sweet, a love song that's more about how being in love makes you feel. Sterling's voice reminds vaguely of Grace Slick at times; hers is a sharp, powerful voice with a warm tone that's exceedingly pleasant to listen to. The lady can belt when she wants to as well, as you'll quickly hear on Lay Down Your Weapons, an Americana/Rocker full of wondrous sounds that mimic a pedal steel at times. Rhythm Of Heart looks back on a long-standing love, still in wonderment at how easy it's been. It's a love song that fails to fall into the ooey-gooey cliché of Pop radio love songs and is driven by a wonderfully rhythmic riff on acoustic guitar.

Room To Change is an angry kiss off song delivered in measured tones. Sterling again building wonderful movement into the arrangement, which in this case seems to stoke the fire in the vocal line. Room To Change shows Sterling to be an incredibly nuanced songwriter who retains the ability to surprise listeners with the occasional brutal blunt force of honesty. Little Under takes another blind turn, exploring the effects of a relationship between non-equals. Sterling gently frames the anxiety and insecurity that wreaks havoc on a relationship where one partner is always in control and neither can win. Sterling turns vitriolic again with Wreck You, another kiss-off song that's wonderfully dark and full of long-hidden anger. Sterling's voice is perfect for this song, channeling an angry strength that gains force as the song progresses. Lay Down Your Weapons closes with Dan's Song, a communication to an ex to give up waiting for a reprise. It becomes clear quickly that the antagonist here borders on stalker-like behavior. Somewhat dark subject matter is covered in a jaunty, upbeat arrangement that's either ironic or downright farcical.

Lay Down Your Weapons reveals Mona Sterling to be a splendid story-teller in song, sprinkling real life relationship stories with intelligence, wit and the sort of personal perspective that comes from having lived through them (or close enough). Add to this Sterling's unforgettable voice, and Lay Down Your Weapons goes down as a highly memorable listening experience. Sterling plays all parts here, ranging from sweet to sassy; loving to spiteful and vulnerable to resolute in the course of nine splendid songs. The full range of human emotions play themselves out on Lay Down Your Weapons, and Sterling gives the sort of performance that causes first time listeners to seek out other recordings, opportunities to see her live, etc.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Mona Sterling at or You can purchase Lay Down Your Weapons as either a CD or Download from


Cynthia said...

Mona is all that...and then some

Mona Sterling said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to my album and give it such a thoughtful review. It's the cherry on my album review sundae that you also liked it!! Thanks again.