WERS 88.9fm Artist of the Week: Kristi Martel

by Ben Collins
for WERS Boston, November 2006

There must be a ton going on in Kristi Martel's head.

You'll get this impression from the structure of her music. In nearly every song in her 2006 release Ravengirl, the intricacies are so slight but strongly crafted, they find their way to the forefront of every song. "The Third Death" brings a bass part that could carry a song all by itself, but she carefully fills out the song with a catchy pre-chorus harmony.

The depth and diversity of her music should be no wonder, really. She graduated from with music degrees on each coast of this country, both Bard and Mills College. She's taught performance art and vocals before deciding to mass-produce her talent.

Yet, the New England native has opted to stay true to her roots. She has played shows in California, New Mexico and Oregon; she's even found her way to a show at the prestigious Knitting Factory in New York City. But her post-tour embarkment is limited to shows around the area, like the Felt Bar in Boston and Cambridge's Club Passim.

That even had its benefits, as she took in Motif Magazine's Best Female Alt-Rock Vocalist in Rhode Island in 2006. Ravengirl, her sixth CD, is a coinciding release to the crowning accomplishment.

But, of all things, you can see Martel's proverbial wheels cranking in her lyrics. And you can't help but listen; her voice captivates on most every track. She boasts a four-octave vocal range, but she doesn't overuse it. She plays directly to the emotion of every track.

Best of all, she's a startling lyricist to compliment her trained voice. To aid her anti-folk, somber-sounding music, she puts together beautiful arrangements of dark words. She pines in the title track, "Because I'm the raven girl. Now, that you made me the raven girl; touched by death, touched by grieving."

Her music will undoubtedly merit her assimilations to Fiona Apple. Her voice will shoot her comparisons to Bjork. Her lyrics will, and have, draw her Ani DiFranco fans.

But, need not worry, she's not Ani DiFranco-depressed yet. She album is filled with a lot of quirk and a fair amount of fun. "Day of Rain" is, maybe ironically judging by its title, the best of the upbeat and springy and finds a way to sound new, somehow, in the key of C.

Ravengirl has already earned a "highly recommended" from the Providence Journal. The Providence Phoenix, usually a tough crowd, bragged of her "meaningful lyrics, passionate performances, and an emotional mission."

You'd worry that this could get to her head and maybe effect her music. But, in the head of Kristi Martel, there may not be enough room left for arrogance.

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