No Ceiling (Channel A Music, 2008)
Haale Gafori’s No Ceiling out on Channel A Music is big step off the beaten path of most female solo CDs I’ve received lately. Gritty and edgy, there’s no sweet, syrupy ballads sung by red-haired Celtic beauties here. No Ceiling resides in the dark end of the street, not the sun-lit field of flowers, and it’s richly rewarding.
Born in the Bronx, Haale’s Persian roots shine through in her kick-ass vocals and compositions with Dougie Bowne and Matt Kilmer on No Ceiling. After a spate of touring, the release of two EPs, performances with David Byrne’s Nonesuch series at Carnegie Hall, the Bonnaroo Festival and the Mimi Festival in France and recording with Sean Lennon on Before the Skies, Haale has delved deep and crafted a debut CD that is wickedly original and sharp as a bare blade.
Professing a fondness for Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, it can come as no surprise that No Ceiling is full of guitar and, believe me, there’s plenty of muscle here for rock devotees to love. Opening track "Middle of Fire" wails with Shahzad Ismaily on acoustic and electric guitar, Mike Gamble on electric guitar, Steve Cohen on bass and Matt Kilmer on percussion, but it’s Haale’s vocals that send the track over the edge and into outer space.
Against an underlying guitar grittiness "All These Miles," title track "No Ceiling" and "Zero to One," Haale’s vocals soar in dizzyingly fascinating circles like a bird on the wing. Tracks like "Hastee" with Persian lyrics by Forough Farokhzad and "Ay Dar Shekasteh" with lyrics from the poet Rumi have a decidedly more Persian feel, but it’s filtered through the passions of electric guitar and meaty percussion. "Off Duty Fortune Teller" with Matt kilmer on electric guitar, bass and percussion and Doug Wieselman on electric guitar and bass clarinet is perhaps my favorite track with it’s slick, smooth sound and quirky lyrics.
With its dark, downtown club sound No Ceiling is an excellent place to start straying from the beaten path.
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