4/99 Currents column by Hilarie Grey
Those who haven't discovered the poignant writing and excellent guitar work of Leni Stern are given a great gift with Recollection (Leni Stern Recordings, LSR 042;74:57) This collection, released on Stern's own label, is a thoughtful tour of some of her earlier work, along with some vibrant and often heartrending new material. Stern's range of voice and influences is shown at every memorable stop - from the ringing, dreamy tableaus of "Shooting Star" and the wild, raging jazz drumming and piano rolls knuckling under her skillful slide on "Talk to Me" (both from 1992), to an eerily beautiful, spindly guitar duet with Bill Frisell on "Someday My Prince Will Come," reaching back to 1985. Stern's 1996 recording of "Something is Wrong In Spanish Harlem"---a gentle, smokey and fragile duet with Wayne Krantz -- underscores her beautiful, genuine approach to song craft. This emmotional openness is related in bittersweet new tracks "Love Lightly" and "Love is Real," with prickly neo-folk undertones and trmulous vocals recalling a more weathered Suzanne Vega or Carly Simon. Stern, a cancer survivor, always infuses her music with a tough sense of hope (evidenced in the poignant "Wondering Why" and worldy blues tale "Richie"), making her Recollection some of contemperary music's greatest teachings.