Melanie Zipin
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Melanie Zipin

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Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Still waters run deep"

Melanie Zipin’s new album reveals more than you might think Imagine someone between Melissa Etheridge and Jewel and you’ll be on the track of what Zipin sounds like.
Melanie Zipin’s new recording, “Shades of Blue,” is a step backwards, but actually in the right direction. Her debut CD, “On a Wing,” (2000) featured the Z Factor band and at times the production seemed to overpower her. Still, “On a Wing” is considered by many to be one of the best records to come out of New Mexico during the past five years, but “Shades of Blue” surpasses it in its honesty, grit and writing.

Zipin’s latest offering is stripped down to the basics while not skimping on the full sound her fans expect. She wrote all the songs on the album with the exception of three co-authored with other band members. Both efforts were produced by Phil Brown who seems to have a psychic connection when it comes to her music. He somehow manages to blend the instrumentation into her voice, playing it like another instrument.

There’s a blues roughness to her vocals that conceals a range which often surprises. Imagine someone between Melissa Etheridge and Jewel and you’ll be on the track of what Zipin sounds like, but watch out because she’ll change on the very next song.

The Philadelphia native found Taos “when I was young.” She arrived in 1979 and learned to play the guitar and began to sing while she was here. Zipin has written her whole life, “There are boxes and storage bins full of my journals,” she said, but it wasn’t until Taos that she began to put her words to music. Her son, born here, inspired the first song she wrote. It was, naturally, a lullaby to him.

Another local singer-songwriter, Stephanie Lee, pushed and encouraged Zipin to develop her voice, writing and music style. “Cross Your Heart,” a song on the album, is about their friendship. In the mid-1980s she left what she calls, “the startling beauty of Taos,” and returned home to Philly.

Soon, though, New Mexico pulled her back. This time she settled in the Silver City area where she still resides. It was there she first began to sing in public after someone heard her sing while working as a waitress in the early 90s. Customers began to help her with tables so she could get up for a song with visiting musicians. One thing led to another and her second CD is selling well. More than 300 people packed her release party. The local arts council has invited her to perform an encore concert at the Opera House and she is seeking management.

“Catch my Breath,” “Shades of Blue” and “To Rock You,” are the three stand outs on “Shades of Blue.” All her lyrics read like poetry. “Early on I loved being able to put my words to music. That’s what really propelled me,” she said. “My first love is writing, music is right behind and to do both is heaven.”

Her bluesy-rocking folk songs seem influenced by everything from flamenco to the rugged terrain of her adopted state. One of Zipin’s strengths is an ability to change tempo in mid-song and wrap the emotions of her words around an emphasized sound. She does it again and again, creating a style that makes each song fresh while using the music to push the listener into the lyrics and viceversa. It’s quite a trick.

As Zipin’s creativity grew through the years, her Taos-born son, now 22, grew up surrounded by music and spent some time in a punk band. Meanwhile she splits her energies between writing new material, artwork and a building project. Although she doesn’t often get back to Taos, keep an eye out as she’ll be touring more to promote the new record. Playing live is her favorite aspect of being a singer. Her lyrics have a common thread of accessibility and subtly sneak up and take your breath. “To know that you've touched another person on that level,” Zipin said, “is the most amazing feeling.”

Both CDs are available at www. cdbaby.com. For more information, visit online www.melanie zipin.com.

Brandt H. Legg hosts the weekly KTAO-FM 101.9 regional-music show “Spotlight on New Mexico” Sundays, 3-6 p.m., and at www.ktao.com. Email him at spotlight@newmex.com. - The Taos News


Discography

"On A Wing" - creature records 2000
"Shades Of Blue" - creature records 2004

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