A Casa Verde
2009 release. Terry de Castro takes a novel approach to her solo debut, one that is especially charming, likable, and curious. The album is composed entirely of cover versions, but these are not necessarily well-known songs by famous artists. Each songwriter on A Casa Verde is a personal friend and musical collaborator of Terry de Castro. The CD comes with elaborate sleeve notes delineating the stories, alliances, and histories of all the artists and her connections to them, placing each song into its unique context and strengthening the overall coherence and concept of the album. It's a deliberately understated exercise. There is a warm, inviting humility in the basic premise of devoting an album to telling stories by one's friends, and it informs the entire endeavor, setting a tone of intimacy and empathy. Each song is a story unto itself, and all of the songs hang together in a vivid and illuminating way. De Castro's maturity as an artist is apparent from the first track, as she adapts "Dalliance" by The Wedding Present, making it her own by layering pedal steel and acoustic guitars. It's a wry, subtly arch choice to launch this particular solo debut. In one of the album's highlights, de Castro strikes a darker tone with Hank Starrs's "East St. O'Neill." With a deceptively languid start and sparkling imagery, it builds slowly on a theme of murder and sorrow, rising on the strength of rousing chord changes that are disturbingly catchy, given the subject matter. As the album progresses, a rich array of styles and subjects take their spin across the dancefloor. Dean Hawksley's "The Sun Is Always Sweetest" by is a bittersweet, country-tinged waltz. Two compositions by Astrid Williamson (Goya Dress) -- "Glorious" and "To Love You" -- are swirling torch songs. The composers also include Mike Chylinski (Drugstore), Simone White (composer of "The Beep Beep Song," which was used in an Audi advertisement), Johnny Daukes (Eurotrash), and Paul Hiraga (Downpilot). De Castro does an expert job of filtering their material through her own self-assured aesthetic, while directing an outstanding band in the process. A Casa Verde is an unpretentious, lovingly assembled pop album; a simple collection of songs. But as a project, the album hangs together in a positively conceptual way, one that vivifies Terry de Castro's life and the lives of her friends.