CD Review - July 2010 Issue
By: Jim Price
(JP the Professor)
SM² – STRANGE SYMMETRY
Two years ago, while performing in support of her latest solo CD Fearless, Middletown-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Sherri Mullen started performing with her son, Shane, as a duet. The pair’s performing and songwriting chemistry clicked, and the duo dubbed themselves SM² (“S-M-squared”) last fall, before proceeding to record an album. The result of that recording, Strange Symmetry, bridges generational and musical gaps over 15 tracks. Mom and son present a diverse range of sounds, spanning acoustic and electric rock, folk, blues, reggae and more; while tackling a variety of lyrical themes dealing with individuality, generational division and reconciliation, and life’s idiosyncrasies.
Throughout the disc, both Mullens’ voices soar, intertwine and envelop each melody, with frequent detailed harmonies and vocal layers coloring and fleshing out the songs. Bassist Doug Stockton and drummer Kevin Hagan add punch to the numbers with their solid rhythms, with guest percussionist Ray Rossi and guitarist Dave Kelly adding additional accents along the way.
SM² displays their folk-rock chops on the disc-opener “Don’t Judge Me,” offers a reggae slant on the observational life study “Are We Having Fun Yet,” and leans country on “Disenchanted.” The pair rocks harder on “Sweet Sleep” and the defiant “No Apology,” dabbles in blues on “Matter’s Just Energy” and the story ode “Jessie and Daisy,” toys with tropical flavors on “Love You Till the Sunrise” and “The Music,” and generates a tango flavor on the caution-to-the-wind-themed “Wreckless.” Perhaps the centerpiece of the album, though, is the serious-toned “While I Learn,” a stern reflection on atonement and lessons learned that builds along an intensifying arrangement.
The performances are moving and enthusiastic, as both mother and son sink soul and purpose into their music, and their chemistry clicks throughout the disc. Producer Jason Rubal keeps the sound busy, with both Mullens’ voices front and center; the arrangements build and wane to support and accent each melody and mood. SM²’s Strange Symmetry is a fun listening adventure, as Sherri and Shane Mullen merge their distinct musical worlds into a vibrant symmetry all their own. The CD can be obtained through SM²’s website, www.sm2music.com)