“The thread that connects these songs is the darkness — the conversation with it, not being scared of it,” said singer-songwriter Atoosa Grey about her fourth album, Dear Darkness, released in April. “Approaching what we often want to leave unsaid or unseen.”
Originally from Wayne, Grey now lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches piano and English. After taking a break from songwriting to raise her two daughters, she returned to it “because I missed it, and because it’s so much a part of who I am,” she said. “I also felt I had something I wanted and needed to express in these songs.”
This is her first album in a decade, and in it she confronts the unseen darkness of life and finds strength and hope in facing harsh realities. You can hear her perform songs from Dear Darkness as well as from 2009’s When the Cardinals Come and other material at her first indoor show since the pandemic began, at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, Nov. 6. Visit petescandystore.com.
Hoboken-based musician James Mastro (The Bongos, Ian Hunter’s Rant Band) will accompany her. Mastro is “such a sensitive and skilled player, and really understands my songs,” Grey said. “He approaches every song differently and always adds a beautiful dimension to it. The songs don’t fit neatly into one genre and I feel he understands that, and is very creative in his approach.”
Mastro accompanied Grey on a haunting cover of the Rod Stewart hit “Maggie May” (listen below) on When the Cardinals Come. With Mastro’s gorgeous guitar and Grey’s elegant vocals, the song takes on a hypnotic quality.
On Dear Darkness, Grey and Mastro are joined by musicians such as cellist Dave Eggar (Esperanza Spalding, Frank Ocean), percussionist Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor), bassist Todd Sickafoose (Anaïs Mitchell, Ani DiFranco) and oboist and English horn player Katie Scheele (Frank Ocean, Anthony Braxton).
Dear Darkness was co-produced by Grey and her husband, Noel Grey, and composed by her on piano. In addition to soulful, somber songs (some featuring cello), the album features the hopeful and upbeat “Night Drags On.”
Grey is also a poet and her craft delicately infuses her lyrics. “I went back to school for an MFA in Poetry (from the New School) when I was pregnant with (second daughter) Lucy and published a chapbook of poems entitled ‘Black Hollyhock’ with Finishing Line Press,” she said. “I’ve been writing poetry and publishing poems as well.”
The first track on the new album, “It Takes Time” (listen below), beautifully reveals her poetic and evocative lyrics. She sings: “I can hear the horses running/I can hear them when I sleep/Like I’m still searching for the answers/I already hold inside of me.”
On the title track, she sings:
Darkness, your black coat is here
It’s wet with rain and only you, dear, would leave your things in a desperate pile
It’s just like you not to come home for a while …
Darkness, I’ve seen your black wings
Beat like moths in the heat of spring
Darkness, I’m wrapped in your lace
There’s no way out of this place
Grey’s songs are intimate, pensive and melancholy, but at the same time, comforting and familiar. We all have faced darkness at some point in our lives, and she sings about this with an appreciation of the benefits of facing the darkness before we bend to the light. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes the real enlightenment comes from ruminating in the shadows,” she writes in her bio.
“These songs are not so much about depression, though there are moments of it on the record,” she said in our interview. “It’s about relationship trauma and the effects of it. It’s about finding yourself in that darkness and finding a way through.”
For more on Grey, visit Facebook.com/atoosagreymusic.
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