Parenthood is rarely extolled in music. It’s hard to find songs that explore the joys and challenges that come with raising kids. On one side of the chasm are chipper children’s tunes by artists like Raffi, and on the other side were songs of lament about missing out on the joys of parenting, like in Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle.” Sarah Eide boldly explores the role of motherhood versus the road not taken in her debut album Dreams on Hold.
The album starts with the upbeat “Big Mover,” a song about watching a child play, and savoring these moments knowing that time, like childhood, is fleeting. It flows nicely into “The Bridge Song.” In an age when the powers that be are talking about building walls to keep people apart, it’s refreshing to hear a song about bridges that connect people.
The more reflective “Journey Song” follows. The lap steel, upright bass, and fiddle play a prominent role in this one. It’s a turning point in the album, heralding in more pensive pieces. It’s not just a lyrical shift, but also a compositional shift. The instrumentation becomes more complex, interweaving tributes to music of the past and fusing it with modern sensibilities. There’s a little boogie woogie here and a sprinkling of jazz there, which pays tribute to Americana and serves as a compass pointing the way for the future of the genre.
The poignant lullaby “Little O” was written by Eide after returning home from tour. It’s a heart-rending song about the emotional cost of being a professional musician – being torn between her personal aspirations and the realities of motherhood. “Dreams on Hold” offers some resolution to the conflict. The jazzy song showcases Eide’s ability to pair a storyline with music as the song builds to a dramatic climax and ends with whimsical curly-cue notes on piano, fiddle, and trumpet.
Like the opening songs, “Shadow” feels like a children’s song but also has a deeper meaning. Eide can’t shake her little shadow, a child who copies everything she does. But childrens’ astute perceptions are reflected back to us like a mirror, and show us things which may not be the most flattering. “Cry Cry Cry” explores the burnout of parenting day in and day out, providing contrast with the upbeat style of New Orleans Jazz.
In “The Journey,” Eide brings all the conflicts of past/present and dreams/realities to resolution through acts of patience, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
Eide takes a lot of chances on this album, exposing her vulnerabilities. Dreams on Hold is a bold musical endeavor exploring the monumental role of adults in shaping future generations. It balances whimsy and gravity, swooping gracefully between the dizzying heights of playful jazz down to the roots of plaintive folk ballads. Even those who haven’t faced the joys and challenges of parenthood will relate to the lyrical themes struggling to balance personal goals with relationships, to capture a fleeting moment in time, and to honor the musical traditions while trying to expand the boundaries.
The production value on the album is high – from the technicality of Eide’s arrangements to the flawless performances by some of Chicago’s well-known contemporary musicians, to the artwork and presentation. The album was self-produced by Eide and recorded in Chicago, prior to Eide’s relocation to Rochester, NY. Engineering was done by Yuri Lysoivanov. It was mixed and mastered by Anthony Gravino (with the exception of “Shadow,” which was mixed by Lysoivanov). Studio musicians include jazz drummer Jon Deitemyer, Shane Jonas of the Low Down Brass Band, Joe Camarillo of The Waco Brothers, and Jess McIntosh who plays fiddle for Al Scorch. The CD comes in a 6-panel case, with artwork by Betony Coons featuring collage images of children, mountains, flowers growing, and musical instruments.