Though From a Window to a Screen is billed as the debut album by the exquisite and sensual North Carolina based vocalist Kirsten Lambert, in essence it’s an exquisite duo project with longtime friend and creative collaborator Chris Stamey, who wrote and produced the 12 beautiful, soulful and remarkably intimate ballad driven set.
Though the ensemble the two gathered for the sessions include jazz greats like guitarists Bill Frisell and Nels Cline (who both add harmonic sparkle to the hushed melancholy reflections of “Insomnia) and UNC Charlotte Professor of Sax (and Harry Connick Jr. alum) Will Campbell and Lambert speaks fondly of the other musical friendships she celebrates on the album, the emotional core is the intuitive connection between her and Stamey – whom she recalls touring with as early as 1993. The two come from different musical backgrounds which as she says “on first observation shouldn’t work but do.” Her dad played ukulele, so she grew up singing songs from the 20s and 30s.
As a teenager, she discovered her dad’s jazz collection, which included works by Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson and Sarah Vaughan. Later in college, a friend turned her on to Stamey’s music, including his early 80s albums with The dB’s. Starting with the smoky and charming “What is This Music that I Hear” and romantically longing “On an Evening Such as This” and rolling on through the sultry and world wise “There’s A Love” and lush closer “And I Love Him,” Stamey gives the singer consistently gorgeous poetry and infectious melodies to explore and interpret.
Adding a bit of swing groove to the mostly moody set is the exuberant and summery “There’s Not a Cloud in the Sky,” a tune which deftly and hopefully resolves any of the relationship complications touched on elsewhere. Although Stamey wrote most of these tunes specifically for Lambert, she also finds fresh magic in two deep catalog cuts from earlier in his career with the title track (a passionate rendering of a dB’s gem featuring Frisell’s haunting guitar lines) and the bluesy “Song for Johnny Cash,” from an album he did later with dB’s partner Peter Holsapple.
Now that the two have joined forces to unleash Lambert’s vocal talent on the world, let’s hope for more picture perfect collaborations in the near future.