In “What’s Wrong with Me,” an impressionistic song suggesting resistance to embracing everything in modern life, Skye sings, “I try not to think about the rain /I try not to think about the evil empires and stupid fools.” It is easy to be discouraged and exhausted by public and private gestures, rituals, and words of aggression and malice, jealousy and resentment.
Reviewed by Daniel Garrett
Skye, “Tell Me About Your Day”
Mind How You Go
Atlantic/WEA International, 2006
I was home, somewhat sleepy, a little depressed, but I had heard the Skye song “Tell Me About Your Day” on Andrea Clarke’s WBAI-FM Friday night radio program “Sister from Another Planet,” and Clarke had said that Skye would be appearing a few nights later on Delphine Blue’s August 22, 2006 radio program, “Shocking Blue,” and so on the twenty-second, a Tuesday night, I was looking forward to that. I had been captivated by the lightness of Skye’s singing and the precise details of her lyrics. I was not disappointed by Skye’s interview or performance.
Skye’s name is reportedly an acronym for Shirley Klarisse Yonavive Edwards; and in her interview with Delphine Blue, on the occasion of her album’s release and a Manhattan performance, Skye talked about her past association with Morcheeba, a band for which she was the lead singer, an association that came to an end when the band decided to experiment with new sounds. Skye’s own first solo effort, the collection of songs called Mind How You Go, is one result. Judging from the songs Skye performed live with only a guitar as accompaniment, and the songs played from Skye’s recording by Delphine Blue, Mind How You Go is a very good album. I am pleased by the charming musicality of Skye, by her intelligence, by the multiplicity of emotions she allows into her work. Singers are often asked to assert anger, pride, and strength (and, strangely, asked to assert these elements despite or without context): and what I like about Skye is her delicacy. She does not offer opinion without fact or judgment without knowledge, nor does she offer a serving of misery as if it were enough for a meal. This London-born singer of African descent does not have the blues. She can sing of doubt and suggest pain but more frequently she explores and expresses comfort, curiosity, discretion, empathy, imagination, joy, and wistfulness: an enlightened perspective, one of sanity and sensuality. Skye’s lightness of being is not a form of superficiality: her awareness of existence, an awareness she shares in song, has its own subtle and sustaining strength. It is a refreshing change.
“Tell Me About Your Day” was inspired by a day spent in New Orleans before hurricane Katrina. The singer had lost access to her wardrobe, which was on a bus, and she had to find a dress to wear for a show. Someone suggested to her that she write a song about her day, and that’s what she did. The song begins, “Tell me all about your day. /So good to hear from you /Tell me ‘bout your day /Feels good to speak to you.” That is the chorus, which recurs. Skye sings, “I’m in New Orleans /It’s just like you’d imagine /Places selling jambalaya and cheap voodoo dolls /Old guys busking, little black boys dancing /They got beer bottle tops on the bottom of their shoes.” Skye presents such a wonderfully vivid picture—accurate, delighted, and nearly tender; and her voice is soft, sweet. Once the turmoil of hurricane Katrina was known, Skye doubted whether she should include the song on her album, as much had changed: an associate encouraged her to include the song. (Imagine: a singer with the conscience to wonder if her celebratory song might be insensitive: and that in a cultural moment when cruelty and prejudice are approved emblems of authenticity.) The song “Tell Me About Your Day” captures the spirit of New Orleans, and suggests some of what has been interrupted or lost, especially now: a year after the hurricane, when many people are still waiting for their homes and businesses and lives to be restored.
The other songs on the album are “Love Show,” “Stop Complaining,” “Solitary,” “Calling,” “What’s Wrong With Me,” “No Other,” “All the Promises,” “Powerful,” “Say Amen,” and “Jamaica Days.” Skye worked with writer-producers Patrick Leonard and Daniel Lanois on the recordings. The songs that made the best impressions on me Tuesday night were “What’s Wrong with Me” and “Tell Me About Your Day.”
Both songs remind this listener that often the difference between happiness and sadness is choice. (I do not have the official lyric sheets for either “What’s Wrong with Me” or “Tell Me About Your Day,” so these notes depend on a very close if not exact transcription from ear to hand.) In “What’s Wrong with Me,” an impressionistic song suggesting resistance to embracing everything in modern life, Skye sings, “I try not to think about the rain /I try not to think about the evil empires and stupid fools.” It is easy to be discouraged and exhausted by public and private gestures, rituals, and words of aggression and malice, jealousy and resentment. When we wake to news of inexplicable terror and war, of natural disasters, of sickness and need, and the inept governments that do not properly address any of these matters, then “trying not to think” seems an understandable response, though not the only one. Being informed and working with others to address important issues form one possibility, though, too, not the only one. Skye continues, “…I try not to think about the money, the mortgage on my home /I try not to think about the rain /I try not to think about the voice mails, e-mails, angry females on the phone /I try not to think about the rain /I try not to think about the job and all responsibilities /I try not to think about the rain /I try not to think about my TV, BBC or MTV /I try not to think about the rain…” Obviously, Skye is cognizant of the many things there are to think about, of the true weight they bear, of how the habits and rituals of daily life can come to seem like nature. She sings, “I try not to think about the rain /Oh oh oh /What’s wrong with me? /Oh oh oh oh /What’s wrong with me?” It takes courage to face it all, and to face the worst, but it is healthy to resist a consciousness that may be poison to the spirit.
It is easy to see how one would want to return to the effervescence of “Tell Me About Your Day.” The song’s shared intimacy of a “present moment” evokes freedom and love. Skye’s day in New Orleans happened to be St. Patrick’s Day. The singer goes on to say in “Tell Me About Your Day” that everyone but her is drinking (in the interview she explained that had something to do with the fact that she had her baby with her and was nursing). In the song, Skye notes, “In the French Quarter, a blonde in a red bra waves from a window,” something that seems to her like a movie scene. (It’s funny how we don’t often say movies are like life: instead we say life is like movies.)
In “Tell Me About Your Day,” the singer acknowledges how the life of a working musician, how life on the road, begins to blur: “So many towns, it feels like the same day.” (She says, “I’m so far, so far from you /All this distance spoils the view.”) There are of course pleasant distractions amid the necessities. “As I was walking I came across a thrift store /I found a cute dress in there, hanging on the damp brick wall /It’s a little bit old but glitzy, I like it /I’m gonna wear it at the show tonight for sure,” Skye sings. There is in that description the attention and resourceful pleasure of a woman, a performer, an artist. And yet: “I’m so far, so far from you /All this distance spoils the view.”
Daniel Garrett has written about music for AllAboutJazz.com, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Option, and PopMatters.com, including commentary on Sade, the Afghan Whigs, Tupac Shakur, Kitchens of Distinction, Matthew Sweet, and Annie Lennox; and his commentaries on Lizz Wright, Sinead O’Connor and Al Green have appeared on the web pages of The Compulsive Reader. Daniel Garrett has also written about art, books, business, film, and politics, and his work has appeared in The African, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Offscreen, Rain Taxi, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and World Literature Today.