There’s a ghostly quality to Ambrosia Parsley, always has been. Over the course of four studio albums with Shivaree, the New York singer/songwriter’s voice came through the dreamy, dark pop in whispers, smoke signals amidst the prevailing caterwauls of the day. Visual images of her have likewise been somehow opaque, out of step with the look-at-me era.
To be sure, despite the fact that Shivaree’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump sold 400,000 copies worldwide (the single “Goodnight Moon” topped the Italian pop charts for seven weeks, played under the closing credits of “Kill Bill 2”) and supporting roles appeared(with Air America Radio, Hal Wilner, Laurie Anderson), Parsley’s past dozen years have been largely hidden from view, more Garbo than Gaga.
“I don’t like having my picture taken, I don’t like making videos, it makes my stomach hurt,” she says. “It’s just how I am; it’s animal. I honestly wish I had been born in another time.”
The time she’s living through is one of tumult and loss, evidenced here on the 41-year-old mother’s solo debut, Weeping Cherry. Its songs speak to a chaotic, fragile world, and Parsley calls its years long writing and recording process “an exorcism more than an exercise, which is actually nice.” That bittersweet die was likely cast at the project’s outset, when, in a span of six months, Parsley lost a series of band mates, friends, and family to untimely deaths.
Produced by Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez (aka The Elegant Too), with contributions from Danny McGough, Joan Wasser, AA Bondy, Benjamin Biolay, and those dearly departed, the result is strangely beautiful. “I think I was just having words with my angels and devils,” she says. “There are lots of both and they fill many rooms now. I throw flowers and glitter on them, try to make them pretty.”