The heaviest things about Jane Siberry are her mascara and her discography. Her songs tend to waft all over the place, hovering occasionally to pick up a punchline or gain momentum for an extended exhalation that would be a yodel if it had any flesh on it. In a fistfight with Kate Bush -- well, it's not even imaginable. Perhaps a hot-air balloon race. Not that Siberry's full of pompous bluster: She's too diaphanous -- and too brainy. (Best all-time Siberryism, from the song "At the Beginning of Time": "and every now and then a bird would not fly by / and someone would look up and say / what wasn't that?")
One might expect an album of collaborations to bring Siberry down to ground or corset her up for crossover audiences, but instead it just gives her new directions in which to soar. The first two tracks of City result from Peter Gabriel's Collaboration Week. "My Mother Is Not the White Dove" layers Siberry's vocals over a classical-sounding string trio, jazzy sax and flugelhorn, and percussion, while "Harmonix/I Went Down to the River" is a percussion-heavy dance track. Other tracks find Siberry collaborating with Joe Jackson, bagpiper Michael Gray and even Barney the Dinosaur. (OK, Barney doesn't sing here, but the track "All the Pretty Little Ponies" was recorded for Barney's Great Adventure.) About half of City comprises Siberry's own compositions; she also essays the Hanukkah song "Shir Amami," the Celtic "Nut Brown Maid" and a collage of Laura Nyro songs.
City represents the work of an artist whose sound is consistent across a wide range of genres. Integrity is a pretty heavy concept, but Siberry's music gives it wings.
Pamela Murray Winters
Rambles, 13 April 2002