Victoria Arico: Everybody Come to Dinner – with “Mountains on Fire” video cover

Victoria Arico - Everybody Come to DinnerPart 11 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

It’s tough to review someone you know – even if only peripherally.

I’ve exchanged a few words with Gideon Freudmann, both in person and via email, but it’s always been as a fan. Victoria Arico and I met as fellow performers, ran into each other frequently at open mics, and exchanged CDs. At the time, she was part of a duo called Tell Your Daughters, but the disc she gave me was an earlier solo album.

Everybody Come to Dinner starts off pretty challenging to the listener. “Mosquito Controller” features two simultaneous (though related) melodic and lyrical lines, both sung by Arico. It’s a brave choice to place this track first, but it ably showcases her storytelling ability and knack for setting a tone. Her titular crush sounds almost mystical, a product of his quite blue-collar local business T-shirt and “size 13 Etonics sneakers” – a fortuitous brand if it became necessary, for a wider release, to replace it with a generic word like “athletic” à la “cherry cola” in The Kinks’ “Lola”.

Characters and situations are deftly drawn throughout the album, as much with flip omission as with detailed description. A gay drummer is encapsulated in his preference for “pints of Perrier” in “Secret Love”; mention of a bride’s mother’s obliviousness to an approaching hurricane elides right over the rained-out wedding to get to the gymnasium shelter serving as a hotel in “Story of the Odds”.

Fear of omission drives one of the strongest songs, “Pretty Good Secretary” – fear that that phrase would “sum up her life”. It’s written in third person, but lady, it’s about someone who labors to find time for music and painting. We see the signature on your CD’s cover art. You are so busted.

Along with somber folk story “Go to the Well”, hippie lovefest title track “Everybody Come to Dinner”, and MIDI-heavy scientific history pontification “Up Come the Daisies”, the second half of the album offers a trilogy of relationship songs. In the utterly charming “Story of the Odds” she gets the guy; in “Walking Alone” and “Mountains on Fire” they struggle to make it work. Though the natural imagery is of epic scale, the challenges depicted are beautifully ordinary.

Through it all, Arico’s voice is humble, her acoustic guitar temperate. It’s well worth the download.

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