Nicole Hale, singer, pianist, guitar and accordion player extraordinaire put together and released ‘House With The Little Rose Garden’ in 2015 on glorious gold vinyl!! (available on iTunes and bandcamp, also in digital format). The album was tastefully mixed and produced by Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Recording in Mesa, AZ. I’ve known Nicole for years. She used to host an open mic at the now defunct R Bar, 218 Bowery in NYC. Nicole has always been prolific, she once handed me a CD of rough recordings of hers which amounts to about 2 albums worth of material. I’ve always been stricken by Nicole’s voice. It’s warm and familiar i.e. immediately welcoming and yet drenched in a history. As I’ve come to learn more about her (personally) it has added a depth to my appreciation for her songs. These are mostly piano based songs, the title track and ‘Find My Way Back to You’ being the exceptions. The instrumentation (piano, keyboard, guitar, Wurlitzer on ‘Hardest of Hearts’, accordion on ‘Never Before’, bass, trumpet and sax on ‘Let Me Be’, plenty of pedal steel) and arrangements of said instrumentation are so well balanced and necessarily so as to support on one hand the deep dark songs and on the other the ethereal, amorphous songs. This is a bluesy, felt set of songs. Sad or downtempo songs have an oft unheralded power to uplift when properly crafted (as these are). Nicole manages to inhabit and report from a dark world without seeming maudlin or overly self-involved. ‘Blue Sunday Love’ knocks it out of the park in this regard. The closing track ‘Oh Water, Oh Thunder, Oh Fire’ is like an atmospheric hymn. I highly recommend ‘House With The Little Rose Garden’ for poetry and soul…2 things we all need more of in the coming years.