Thursday, November 10, 2011

String Bridge (The Album) Review

Today is my stop on the launch tour for my dear friend Jessica Bell's debut novel. I'm not actually reviewing the novel though, I'm reviewing the album that goes along with it. Before I get to that, can I just say: I think this is such a brilliant idea.

I've never heard of this being done before. I mean sure, I bet there's been a band biography that was accompanied by some tired old greatest hits compilation album, but I've never heard of a novel, a debut no less, being accompanied by an original album, performed almost entirely by the author, and inspired by the main character. I think that's cool as shit.

Anyway, the album is not actually called String Bridge. I just made that the title of the post so it wouldn't get confusing. The album is called Melody Hill: On the Other Side, by Jessica Bell.

Before I start to talk about it, let me tell you where you can get the album:

It can be purchased on iTunes
Or bought from

Now, before I review the album, I just want to point out that Jessica is a good friend of mine. Not only is she a lovely personality, but she's a great writer, who is hilarious, and incredibly supportive. We've exchanged work before, and she is also an excellent, professional editor.

I received this album for free, as promotional material intended for advanced review, but that doesn't mean I'm going to blow smoke at you about it. Jessica understands that I only "review" books I love, and I told her I wouldn't do this post if I didn't care for the album. Thankfully, that's not a problem.

I think this album is the perfect companion for this novel. Jessica's voice is at times haunting, at times joyous, and at times devastatingly sorrowful, which is much like life, and much like String Bridge. Jessica sings just as she writes: with brutal honesty, and a fearless desire to face the intricacies of a life full of passionate suffering, as well as graceful bliss, with truth and courage.

I've never been very good at reviewing books, let alone albums, but I did used to own a small independent record label, and from that experience I can tell you that the production on this album is top notch. You might have thought an author recording an album to "promote their book" (not that Jessica did that, she's a natural) would be some kind of hack job with a singer howling into a cheap drum mic, with weak guitar and no other kind of backing tracks, but you'd be wrong. Jessica plays acoustic/rhythm guitar for the entire album, as well as bass guitar for On the Other Side. Lead guitar is performed by George Priniotakis, who also arranged, produced, and mastered every track at Artracks Recording Studios, in Athens, Greece. The sound engineer was Alex Bolpasis, who is a cat who obviously knows something about microphones, and their placement. The vocals, the acoustic guitar, and even the drums, which could theoretically be digital, sound crisp and clear, and yet do not lose the analog warmth that comes from properly micing those kind of instruments.

Jessica truly has the voice of a siren, and this album would be a joy if that's all it was, but it's very nice to see highly professional production to go along with it. I think my favorite song is the fifth track, Famous. Yes, it does have an ill breakbeat that kicks in at the end, and I'm a sucker for beats, whether they be live drums, or from an 808, a 909, or even a 303, but that's not why I love this song. I love Famous, because it speaks to the fundamental questions we all ask ourselves about our lives, regardless of what we do for a living, or who makes up our families. I've been given permission by Jess to reprint the lyrics here, but you've got to get the album to truly have a feeling for the meaning of this track.


so you want to live the life of a star
and you want to be at peace with mankind
really want to be a mother and father

so you want to know the meaning of life
want to be the ripple and wave
really want to know yourself completely

so you want to start your own revolution
and you want to teach your daughter it all
and you really want to fight this depression

do you really want to hold emotions to ransom
do you want to be cruel to be kind
do you really want to lose precious intentions

so you really want everyone to hear you
and you want everyone to see
but do you really want to be this famous?

I could go on about the album, but this post is long enough, and you really ought to just hear it for yourself. Plus, I think I would be remiss without saying something about the book.

You might be surprised to find that a guy who loves stories about sword fights, magic, dragons, and rogues would get into a novel like this, but every once in a while, you want to read a story not for what it's about, but for the way it's told.

Jessica tells us Melody's story with such style and poetry that the prose grabs you equally by the balls and heart, and does not let up as it throttles you, caresses you, and throttles you again. Jessica has a gift for language that is as impressive as it is inspiring.

Let me show you the places where you can find Jessica, and her debut novel from Lucky Press: String Bridge:

Jessica's blog.
Jessica's website.
Jessica on Facebook.
Jessica on Twitter.
The String Bridge website.
String Bridge on Goodreads.
String Bridge Trailer.
String Bridge Merchandise.

And you can purchase String Bridge as an ebook, at:

Amazon US.
Amazon UK.

Or as a paperback, at:

Amazon US.
Amazon UK.
Barnes & Noble.

For a better, full on review of the book, from a much less hairy, sweaty, manly point of view, please visit the lovely and most slippery of bloggers: Karen Amanda Hooper, at Eternal Moonshine of a Daydreaming Mind.


Jessica Bell said...

Matt you've got me grinning from one ear to the other doing the full circumference of my head. YOU ARE A CHAMP. Thank you so much for this. I'm sure you know how much I appreciate every single loving word. MWAH!

PS: Paperback links are up now:



Cheers matey! And by the way, you don't really stink. ;o)

Karen Baldwin said...

What a great tribute, Matt. Your post has me psyched for my turn tomorrow to promote String Bridge.

Steve MC said...

It was Jessica's music and not her writing that first got my attention in the trailer to her novel. Not just her riveting vocal, but as you say, the whole production is top notch.

And anyone who buys her novel from Amazon tomorrow gets every song for free.

Unknown said...

This was the most eloquent, honest and thought-provoking review of an album I have ever read. I am definitely purchasing this album today. I've been wanting to but I'd been putting it on the back burner for one reason or other. Not anymore.

Jemi Fraser said...

I agree! Jess's voice is haunting - I really, really enjoyed the music! :)

PK HREZO said...

Cheers to that! I'm really looking forward to hearing it because it's my kind of music: haunting voice and deep lyrics.
I'm a big fan of beats too, so looks like I'll get a little bit of everything.
I agree, it's worth reading for the beauty of the writing alone.
Wonderful review, Matt!

Old Kitty said...

Jessica is such a talent - music, writing, poetry!! Awesome woman! Good luck Jessica in all that you do - you are truly an amazing creative artist! Take care

Natalie Aguirre said...

This was a great post. I don't know Jessica as well as you but she sounds so talented. I'm excited for her debut and it's awesome that she can combine her love of music with writing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I won this CD from Jessica (and it arrived yesterday) so I'm looking forward to listening to it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I received an early copy and thought it was awesome as well. Except crap, that's the same song I was going to quote...

LTM said...

I've heard snippets of all these songs, and I like them all. Some I really REALLY like. And Jessica's voice is gorgeous.

She's a rockstar, and the book's not bad, either. ;o) <3

Bish Denham said...

Very nice Matt. I'll looking forward to getting Jessica's CD. I loved her voice on the trailer and just knew...

Weaver said...

An album with the book. Awesome!

Bryan Russell said...

Great review!

My kids and I love her trailer, so I'm guessing the album is just as good.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

What an AWESOME promotional idea!

Also? I read the whole post, but really, you had me at: "Jessica's voice is at times haunting, at times joyous, and at times devastatingly sorrowful..."

Copyboy said...

Honestly I'd love to post her creative vocal offering on my site – If you're or she is interested.

Wine and Words said...

I look forward to checking it all out. I remember crying over a description of melons in a book about organic farming. I KNOW, I KNOW. WTF? But it's like you said, the WAY it was told, not so much the subject matter, but the photo in connection with the words, the passion behind the words, the fact that I couldn't in a million years have written a sentence so perfectly....well...ya know...I shed a tear.

Johanna Garth said...

After that post, I can't wait to get the album and hear Jessica sing. I have no trouble believing that she has a beautiful voice!!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Awesome review! I'm excited about the album and book going together. I particularly loved this comment because I agree: "every once in a while, you want to read a story not for what it's about, but for the way it's told"

Candyland said...

She literally rocks. This is something like what I've done with my book that will probably never be published. She beat me to it :)

Michael G-G said...

Fantastic post, from beginning to end. What an amazingly creative person Jessica is.

Angela Ackerman said...

I think it's so awesome how she has her own music for this. So cool!

Angela @ the Bookshelf Muse

dolorah said...

I do love Jessica's smoothe singing voice.


Laura Pauling said...

I loved her singing voice! Incredible. And I don't usually read this type of book either but the first chapter on her website sold me!