New Music Review: Chana Rothman’s Beautiful Land: A Labour of Love

In today’s popular American culture, expecting celebrities often recede from the limelight while pregnant. In her new EP, Beautiful Land, singer/songwriter Chana Rothman actively embraces the opportunity to channel her creative energy into an unforgettable musical journey, specifically during her pregnancy. The result is a celebration of life, brimming with heartfelt empathy, mesmerising grooves, and earthy splendor.

 

Photo by Elise Warshavsky

In just six tracks, Rothman creates a universe, transporting the listener to a different realm, one in which emotional honesty and whimsical funkiness reign supreme. Rothman’s music resides somewhere between the intersection of pop, folk, and ethnic, but she transcends all of them. As Rothman’s music demonstrates, we live in a thoroughly cosmopolitan, interconnected time, when such designations are essentially irrelevant labels.

The opening track, Shine, offers a life-affirming message to young people, with its light, breezy groove.  The title track, Beautiful Land, showcases Rothman’s impressive stylistic and thematic versatility. Inspired by her travels in Jamaica, Rothman wrote this loving, polyrhythmic reggae-infused piece as a tribute to its people. Accented with hints of a West African groove, Beautiful Land conjures up distant times and lands, while insisting on a temporal and spatial immediacy with its hypnotic rhythms and gentle melody.

 

Of all the pieces on this EP, Inadequate packs in the most nerve and verve, with its brutally honest lyrics, reflecting on body image. Other reviewers likened Rothman’s lyrically-driven Inadequate to Ani DiFranco—and this was my initial association.  One could also compare this track to India Arie’s I’m Not My Hair, but Rothman’s upbeat and bluesy piece has much more flavor, political punch, and lyrical colour.

In Come on Home, Rothman shifts gears again, this time offering a poignantly understated elegiac ballad. A modern-day Psalm of sorts, this piece never names the subject of its mourning, but rather evokes a flood of feeling and taps the core of the experience of loss.  The following track again radically departs into an entirely different feeling and space.  Listening to Baby Do That Dance for Me, one almost expects Django Reinhardt to surface magically and rip into one of his legendary hot jazz guitar solos.  This joyful and jazzily ambient piece certainly makes you want to rise to your feet and dance along.

Remember Your Name, the other ballad on this EP, is the final track and mourns the loss of Michael Jackson, while also reflecting on his legacy and memory. Enlisting Soulfarm guitarist C Lanzbom’s help on the slide guitar, this track serves as an apt coda to an album which amply attests to the restorative power of music. Beautiful Land, which is available  in stores starting today (and will be available digitally beginning Thursday, December 8), would make a gloriously soulful Hanukkah gift for the music lovers on your list.

'Beautiful Land' cover art: Graphic design by Michelle Nichols; Artwork by Michele Kishita

One Response to “New Music Review: Chana Rothman’s Beautiful Land: A Labour of Love”

  1. Thanks so much Raysh for this beautiful review! Folks, the CD was supposed to be available on iTunes WEEKS ago but I don’t know what’s happened. In the meantime, for a physical copy feel free to visit my website www.chanarothman.com or else email me: chanarothman @ gmail.com and I’d be happy to send you one! Peace, Blessings, and Happy Chanukah. Thank you again.


    Chana Rothman · December 22nd, 2011 at 11:34 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik