Precociousness always catches its observer off guard; we are witness to a stubborn incongruity, adisproportionate relationship between limited years and elevated levels of skill, insight, or vision. Itconfounds common experience, and we wonder. When Ortolan’s debut album Time On A String wasreleased in 2010, three quarters of the family foursome were yet under drinking age. Along with copiouskudos given to the quality of the music and the maturity of the song-writing, every single review mademention of their age. Wonder indeed.What may be the greater marvel though, is when a nascent talent starts to grow into itself; when prodigiouspromise begins to deliver something beyond spectacle, when it begins to nourish those who are witness to it.Such is the case with Ortolan’s latest, Covered In Black.
“Luxuriating within the lustrous musical harbor of the Ortolan sisterhood is the great strength of Stephanie Cottingham's lyrics. She talks of space and place, street corners, trees, and “sitting here reading this all on the ground.” We are able to explore these rooms with her, dream alongside her, join her in the desire to “Be So Bold” and “wish I could liveâ€¦to the fullest”. We know with her that “I was meant for something more”. We face “Sticky Situations” in the midst of which we struggle to “make things better” and believe the best about people and ourselves. Daniel Smith's fine production has framed all this in such a way that there is little to hinder our entrance.
Music like this is rare. It addresses us kindly, directly, without pretense or irony. It is not cool or hip or self-contained. It is unabashedly vulnerable, open to encounter. It's not often anymore that you hear the music of young people. Not just young people, but anyone who is still engaged in becoming who they are. Ortolan includes us in the family, encouraging us to grow along with them. As we walk from room to room, past painting after painting, here is something that invites us to pause, enter in, and to become a kindred participant in its quest.”
-Dan Zimmerman, 2009