Lori Lieberman's career, spanning over four decades, has been marked by an understated yet profound influence on the singer-songwriter tradition. Lieberman is of course best known for “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” which has since been covered by a number of artists (most notably Roberta Flack in 1971). In recent years, she has retained a sizable fanbase in the Netherlands and continues to tour & record.
Originally released through Drive On Records USA in September 2019, The Girl and the Cat sees Lieberman teaming up with the acclaimed Matangi Quartet from the Netherlands. The album is a delicate tapestry woven from the threads of folk, acoustic, and classical music presenting a collection of songs that feel simultaneously intimate and expansive.
The Girl and The Cat is Lieberman’s 17th studio album and the fourth to receive an immersive release, following 2014’s Bricks Against The Glass (mixed in 5.1 surround by Ronald Prent), 2015’s Ready For The Storm (mixed in 5.1 surround by Bob Clearmountain), and 2022’s Truly (mixed in Dolby Atmos by Clearmountain).
Clearmountain–known for his work with iconic acts like Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and David Bowie–is behind the mixing console once again for The Girl and the Cat. Together, these two industry veterans combine their crafts to create a sound that is nuanced and richly layered.
Though it may not seem an obvious candidate for the surround treatment–given its primarily acoustic and sparse nature–the album actually translates incredibly well into Dolby Atmos. This is probably no surprise given Clearmountain’ s involvement, but the clarity of the 48-khz/24-bit Dolby TrueHD/Atmos MKV files is simply astounding.
The construction of the Atmos mix is simple, but highly effective nonetheless. Main elements like piano and acoustic guitar stay largely upfront, with Lieberman’s vocal isolated in the center speaker. The side and rear surround channels primarily feature the Matangi Quartet’s string parts, while the height channels supply ‘you-are-there’ ambience.
Lieberman's voice in The Girl and the Cat serves as a gentle guide through a series of emotionally charged narratives. Her ability to connect through melodic storytelling is evident from the very first track, “You Can’t Take It Back.” The title track in particular exemplifies this blend and showcases a synergy that transcends genres.
Songs like "Empty Chairs" and "Martha and Me" are intimate conversations, with Lieberman's skill in painting vivid imagery through her lyrics is on full display. The Matangi Quartet provides a classical counterpoint to Lieberman's folk roots, creating an atmosphere that is cinematic in scope yet personal in scale.
The album benefits significantly from high-resolution audio formats, which reveal the depth and the breadth of the recording. The dynamic range is preserved, allowing for the softest whisper to the quartet's crescendo to be experienced with a visceral presence.
The Girl and the Cat is a triumph of musical storytelling, brought to life by Lori Lieberman’s evocative songwriting and the Matangi Quartet's classical finesse. It is an album that does not demand attention with brash sounds or flashy production, but rather invites the listener into its embrace with subtlety and grace. In an age where music often leans towards the grandiose, Lieberman reminds us that there is unparalleled power in nuance and restraint.
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