Digging into my musical vault of CDs at home earlier this week I unearthed a real gem of an album that I hadn’t listened to in a few years; 23rd Street Lullaby by Patti Scialfa. I have two other albums by Scialfa, Rumble Doll and Play It As It Lays, but 23rd Street Lullaby remains my favorite of the bunch.
23rd Street Lullaby is full of great songs, ranging from gorgeous, wistful ballads to more uptempo tunes. Although Scialfa is married to Bruce Springsteen, their songs don’t really sound that much like one another. But then again, there is a certain thread that connects their music, at least conceptually. They both have a certain integrity, sincerity, and lyrical depth to their songs that set them apart from the rest of the rock and roll crowd. This is not pop music for simpletons, but multi-layered songs that reveal new secrets with each listening. You could call this music for grown-ups, or for those of a certain age, but Scialfa’s songs are not so buried in the past or riddled with clichés that younger listeners will be turned off. Her music does not sound dated by any means. This is music that shimmers and invigorates the listener.
Scialfa is an excellent singer and songwriter who can more than hold her own, but it doesn’t hurt that she is joined by a stellar cast of musicians on 23rd Street Lullaby. In addition to Mr. Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, Marc Ribot, and Will Lee join the party. This is one lullaby that you’ll be humming for days. Scialfa takes her time between albums (she’s only released the three albums, Rumble Doll being her debut in 1993), but it’s always worth the wait to hear her rich compositions and sumptuous vocals.