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Music Review: Chantal Kreviazuk – Ghost Stories

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As a fellow writer and musician with a long ethnic last name, I bet there were some days where Canuck chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk wishes she had a “Smith,” a “Brown” or a “Jones” on the end of her name. From an ease-of-use perspective, a surname you don’t have to spell when you’re two years old can’t do anything but help a career.

But mostly, you get a sense she wouldn’t have it any other way: the classically trained pianist and singer/songwriter has a resonance and style all her own, just like her name suggests. With Ghost Stories, Kreviazuk’s fourth long player, it seems she has honed her abilities, reconciled who she is and embraced her desires for exploration. She's ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Written on a grand piano in the kitchen of her home studio, Ghost Stories is a haunting slice of truth in advertising – compelling characters and stories told in an Adult Contemporary format, with shades of pop, gospel and Americana thrown in for good measure. When Ghost Stories soars, it recalls Paula Cole’s brilliant This Fire album — particularly in surefire hits like “Ghosts of You,” “Grow Up So Fast” and the lead single “All I Can Do.” Other tracks, particularly the engaging “Spoke in Tongues,” sound like pure Tori Amos – mysteriously melodic and just a bit on the quirky side.

Kreviazuk has penned hits for everyone from Gwen Stefani to Kelly Clarkson; with Ghost Stories, she sounds like a woman ready to take on her own career with a brand new tact. For her part, Kreviazuk claims she knew she was composing something entirely different from the rest of her discography. The album – produced by Our Lady Peace leader and Kreviazuk's husband Raine Maida – is surprisingly without guitars. It still sounds big (a testament to her talent) and shows growth and maturity in her songcraft.

Ghost Stories is a sharp tour de force of voice, melody and the power of simplicity. You could do far worse in the mass of canned pop sold from machines these days. What’s more, if you’re an MP3-type, it’s worth your while to find Ghost Stories (With Interview Tracks) on iTunes. It has the full album, along with some additional songs and nearly 30 minutes of interviews with Kreviazuk herself. The added material makes this striking listening experience even better. Very, very worthwhile.

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About Peter Chakerian