Eva Mayerhofer’s stories and music are rich in many things and one of these is contrast, as in the CD title itself, „Lofty Ground“. Her bright and clear alto voice, always skilled and yet relaxed throughout this album of sensitive songs, moves us through a series of contrasting moods: at times joyous, other times gloomy, at times warm, other times cool. Light-hearted or sad, romantic or intellectual.
For the realisation of these musical moods, she needs very little: a piano (Lars Duppler), an upright bass (Matthias Nowak) and a drum (Marcus Rieck). And, of course, her voice, handling the song material in ways that are ripe, mature, sensitive, experienced, expressive and flexible.
And what stories she tells with her songs! Inspired by a William Turner painting, the opening song speaks of salty sea air, the roar of surging waves, the magic of the windswept loneliness that comes from the sea. Or in „Mezzanine“, originally an instrumental piece by her pianist, she tells the dreamy, quiet and sensitive story of two people caught between floors, between stages of their lives and their relationship. And then there’s „Brand New Light“, a bossa nova, in which she sings about the feeling one has just before falling asleep, that floating state between waking and sleep.
Mayerhofer’s multi-layered music is as complex as her lyrics are deep, with bossa nova and jazz as its basis, in which one discovers lines from soul or funk to pop or singer-songwriter. At times these lines are deeply chiseled in, at other times causally added like a light brushstroke.
The nine songs are orchestrated economically, without ever becoming brittle. No note is too much, each chord sits in its right place, --rhythmically precise. At times, Duppler flatters Mayerhofer’s voice with pleasant analogue Fender Rhodes sounds, at other times he contrasts her colors with his own. Nowack undercoats and supports the music with a round, sturdy bass sound, while Rieck leads the way with accentuated drumming. In three of the songs, „Mezzanine“, „Brand New Light“ and „Bend“, guitarists Johannes Behr and Hanno Giulini, along with percussionist Roland Peil supervene to further intensify the substance of Mayerhofer’s music.
With Mayerhofer, the concept of reducing the means to catalyse creativity is no cliché. In fact, it works for her beautifully, for she manages thus to dig down to the core, the essence of the songs. The advantage here is that through this process she is able to remain sincere as a musician and true to herself as a person. She willingly does this without extras, superfluous odds and ends, --getting along easily without string section kitsch and musical posturing.
And here they are again, once more brought to light, these wonderful contrasts through which Eva Mayerhofers music shows its strength: expressive and yet introverted, light and floating, then heavy, deeply rooted in the earth, --equally as self-confident as self-questioning...
Martin Laurentius, Music Journalist & Author