As a writer, Colorado singer-songwriter Celeste Krenz contributed to only three of the 11 songs on her fine new album, Celeste. Yet, all three are strong and haunting, especially "I Had a Dream About You," written about a sister who died at 16. The remainder of Krenz's album works well, thanks largely to her own tasteful selections and her knack for reinterpreting other people's songs.
The presence of former Subdude John Magnie who wrote or co-wrote four songs and plays keyboards and accordion gives the album much of its soulful appeal. In fact, its anthemic centerpiece is Magnie's "If Wishin' Made It So" (RealAudio excerpt), a yearning reflection on a lost love. Like the sad (and less memorable) "Like a Ghost," Magnie culled it from his 1998 solo album, Magnie, to which Krenz contributed harmony vocals.
Krenz's core band, which includes guitarist/producer Bob Tyler, organist Jeremy Lawton, Magnie and former Subdude drummer Steve Amedee, creates sympathetic settings that draw out the sensual beauty of her voice. A real singer's singer, she connects to the pulse of a song with a pure, expressive soprano that is distinctive in its rhythmic articulation and tonal clarity.
Krenz shades her voice's sweetness with a breathy sensuality on Noel Brazil's "Don't Send Me Anymore Love," a hip-moving groove-fest punctuated by former Hot Rize guitarist Nick Forster's mandolin and sly slide guitar. She keeps it light on Tom Kimmel and John Smith's infectious "Clear Blue Sky," essentially a bouncy pop song funked up with percussive grooves that would have been at home on a Subdudes' record.
But Krenz is at her best on ballads with meatier lyrics, where she subtly deploys the break in her supple voice to penetrating effect, as on Buddy Mondlock's dramatic "Break the Cup" (RealAudio excerpt) and her own "In the Arms of the Moon" (RealAudio excerpt), a tender affirmation of beliefs.