Sophie B. Hawkins
Record review by Gail Craig
The Crossing is the 5th and latest studio recording from Sophie B. Hawkins. While the artwork is contrasting, including geographically from desert to sea, it is symbolic of the layered artist herself and musical visitations on the record. It could be imagined about Sophie B., that had she been born in a different time period, she may have been an unbound sailor or such. This is juxtapositioned with photographs depicting her child and the cuddling of her dog. The free-spiritedness of the sea and vagabond feel of her tramping through the desert, although fashionable, with just her guitar in bright red casing, and additionally her points of security, ultimately tie together the perception of the tiered personality of Sophie B. Hawkins.
The largely pop songs of The Crossing are personal, about freedom from oppression, or a combination of the both, at times left to the listener for interpretation. The beginning of the record starts on the latter leg, with the upbeat opening track “Betcha Got A Cure For Me”, regarding personal or perhaps institutional enslavement. A longer, less rock and more dance tinged version of the song appears in the bonus tracks of the cd. When Sophie B. Hawkins projects her voice as in “Betcha Got A Cure”, a bluesy vocal is evoked, harkening to her passionate portrayal of Janis Joplin in the play Room 105.
Larger themes play out in The Crossing. The medium tempo, driving pop “The Land, The Sea, and The Sky”, speaks of greed, standing for one’s beliefs, and has Native American nature themes. Sophie B. donates 100% of the proceeds from this single to the non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance, with whom she is closely involved. A feminine theme emerges in the R&B, bluesy with horns “Heart And Soul Of A Woman”, containing the well said dual lyric “Sometimes the strongest man has the heart and soul of a woman”. The song tapers off mellow and pleasantly at the end. All the tracks of The Crossing were written by Sophie B. Hawkins except “Gone Baby”, co-written with the actress Mary Steenburgen. It deals with abusive relationships, with the great lyrics “You can tell your pretty words to the dust of my car…Gonna… Be my story’s heroine.” The song transforms from soft to driving pop with strings and ends bluesy. “Red Bird” closes as a quiet metaphorically appropriate song for every person- “Someday you’ll find out who you really are. You’ll know why you had to fly so far away.”
Personal references abound on The Crossing. The spiritual “Sinner Man” is an enjoyable stripped down world music percussive and strings prayer which builds in intensity and tempo. Sophie B. Hawkins impressively performs the strings and percussion on the record, minus the live bonus tracks. Seventies style pop materializes on “Georgia”, leaving one wondering exactly who is being sung of so longingly, reminiscent of young love. The ballad “Life Is A River” is an album favorite, with the lyrics seeming to allude to multiple persons. Piano lounge “Dream Street and Chance” has Sophie B. Hawkins’ own allusions, with a tasty horn arrangement.
Family references arise in The Crossing, as in the heartfelt ballad “Missing”, featuring piano and jazz muted trumpet. The emotional piano solo vocal from Sophie B. Hawkins “Miles Away”, begins and ends with the word “Father”. The evolution of this relationship continues on the next track “I Don’t Need You”, garnished with a powerful chorus. A positive turn arrives on the family side in the R&B flavored “A Child”, Sophie B. seeming to have written it during pregnancy, having since had her wishes come true. An interesting moment happens in the course of the song, when Sophie B. breaks into two lines from George Gershwin’s Porgy And Bess.
There are four bonus tracks on The Crossing. It is nice for fans or new discovers of Sophie B. Hawkins to have other versions of her two biggest hits. There is an acoustical “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” with piano, then strings join in. An abrupt change to the song happens when a marching snare drum enters, left to the listener to decide if it works. Keyboards are the only accompaniment on “As I Lay Me Down”. It is just Sophie B. on piano, banging it out on the demo for “Missing”, making it a treat to compare to the final mixed version.
Sophie B. Hawkins’ The Crossing is a great record. Lyrically, it is strong. The impassioned songs shift within themselves in music arrangement and tempo, making it continually interesting listening. Also, the tracks have visitations of other styles of music other than strictly pop. Sophie B. Hawkins uniquely adlibs occasional phrases before some of the songs. It could be imagined of Sophie B. Hawkins, that scarcely a day passes without her doing some sort of artistic work. She wrote the entire record, save the one spiritual “Sinner Man”, and the co-written “Gone Baby”. Additionally, Sophie B. played piano, strings, percussion, drums, and sang all vocals on the album. As if all this were not enough, this overachiever produced, arranged, and engineered the largest percentage of The Crossing, nearly an hour and ten minutes total in length. Sophie B. Hawkins has a fine achievement in The Crossing.