In 2004, a 19 year old Melody Gardot was struck on her bicycle by a Jeep making an illegal turn. The accident left her with a shattered pelvis – she still uses a cane to get around – hyper-sensitivity to light and sound – she never takes off her dark glasses and earplugs – and short term memory loss. A TENS unit alleviates her pain, except during shows where she turns it off because, as she jokingly told the Philadelphia CityPaper, "it makes my guitar go bzzzzt." Most wouldn't have such a positive attitude in the same situation, but over the last four years Gardot has kept her smile and her laugh, and in turn has given her voice and soul to the world.
Hoping to restore some of Gardot's cognitive ability after the accident her physician prescribed music and in 2005 her debut EP, Some Lessons was recorded from her bedside. Of her rather unique journey towards music Gardot said, "It was a most unusual start, but when you come from a place where things are tough it makes it that much easier to appreciate the times when life is easy."
Gardot's music is a stunning mix of blues, jazz, and folk powered by a voice at times sultry and smooth, disarming and sweet, and always devastatingly beautiful. She can be as smoky as Norah Jones or as quirky as Regina Spektor with a soulful finish that is all her own. Her songs are deeply personal, containing her pain and her hope because as she says, "I believe in sharing your heart with people, no matter how hard it may be."
In traveling between cities for shows, sharing might be one of the hardest parts of her ordeal. Since loud situations can lead to migraines, tinnitus, or blackouts, she spends hours before each show meditating to calm her nerves. Car rides must be taken in short spurts as she often needs to get out and stretch.
Gardot's journey reached a new peak in February of this year when she released her first full-length album, Worrisome Heart, on Verve Records. In the running for one of the best albums of the year, the record is ten songs of unadulterated humanity wrapped in sensuality, heartache, longing and calm reflection. The title track is sultry seductive in all the right ways while displaying a self-conscious vulnerability.
I would be lucky to find me a man
Who could love me the way that I am
A worrisome troubling baggage free modern day dame
"Gone" is a low, mournful tune about lost love while Gardot does some of her most impressive vocal work on the longing piano ballad "Love Me Like a River Does." "All That I Need Is Love" is light and playful (including the first bits of scatting on the album), and the steady blues-strum on "Sweet Memory" perfectly complements the laid back, introspective vocal styling of the song.
The jazzy "Goodnight" is yet another stand-out on a fantastic record but while all of the songs are exceptional it's "Some Lessons" that ends up stealing the show. The song is a reflection on her accident and the revelations about life that she took from it. Recalling the events she sings:
To think that I could have fallen
A centimeter to the left
Would not be here to see the sunset
As she thinks on these events she comes to a greater appreciation for the better days.
If I think real hard well
I reckon I've had some real good times
And really, that's what Gardot's music is all about. The good times, the bad times. Hoping for better during the lows and living it up during the highs. That's all music, really.
And, as Melody Gardot charmingly, beautifully tells us, that's life.
Check out tracks at her Myspace page.
Crossposted from ListenInMusic.com