From brass fanfare that opens “Shadowlands” to the plaintive closing notes of “Plainclothes Hero,” Laila Biali & the Radiance Project’s new CD, House of Many Rooms is a treat for the ears and a feast for the soul.
Biali, a Vancouver native who now calls New York City home, has played with Sting, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega. Best known as a jazz pianist, House of Many Rooms is a musical departure for her.
But her fans can thank her husband, and CD co-producer, Ben Wittman for pushing her into recording the CD and sharing these songs with the world.
“He helped me silence the judges in my head,” says Biali in an Arts Connection interview to be broadcast in early May. “Releasing original music like this is sharing something that’s deeply personal and is a higher risk than putting out an album of cover material.”
And deeply personal it is, with songs that explore grief, loss, longing and expectation.
“Sparrow” was written for a friend’s sister whose twins were stillborn, where the pain comes through in the lines “But I can’t feel the kicking inside of me/In the space that my hands overlay.” Biali writes of her own reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in “Shine” a lullaby-style tune which says “There’s shattered glass beneath our feet/The shards they cut like broken dreams.”
A friend’s battle with cancer is the backbone of “Plainclothes Hero,” while “Little Bird” is an ode to her son and “Home” is one of the best descriptions of Christian community I’ve seen: “This is home for all/You will not be rejected/All of perfect beauty reflected/In your face/In this place.”
House of Many Rooms has an indie-pop feel (one person I’ve shared it with says it reminds them of Hark the Herons – an indie duo which includes downhere bassist Glenn Lavender) with a solid cast of musicians, including Wittman, and vocalists, including the Toronto Mass Choir. “You” with its eerie Haken Continuum is reminiscent of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And “Home” has roots in Biali’s jazz stylings with a steady rhythm section base underpinning the vocal and string arrangements.
Biali first conceived The Radiance Project about six years ago. And two years ago she entered the studio to begin recording House of Many Rooms. The final product has been well worth the wait.
For more on Laila Biali & The Radiance Project got to http://theradianceproject.com/. And listen to the full interview with her on 94.3 Faith FM on Monday, May 4 at 9:30 p.m. ET (webcast on www.faithfm.org).