I’m The Only One (1993)
The moment Etheridge captures is fresh, like an animal just butchered. The body is warm with life but dead without dispute. Her opening imagery pulls no punches.
Please baby can’t you see
My mind’s a burnin’ hell
I got razors a rippin’ and tearin’ and strippin’
My heart apart as well
Tonight you told me
That you ache
for something new
Her bluesy acoustic guitar opens once more the sad chapters of the book of love although it yields quickly, making no pretensions to greatness, to the inimitable Waddy Wachtel, lead guitarist on Warren Zevon’s best work, as well as Linda Ronstadt’s finest.
Wachtel’s note-bending, mind-bending electric is the perfect wing on which Melissa’s power vocals can rise. She is, in many ways the inheritor of the mantle of Janis Joplin’s and Ronstadt’s torchy Blues-fueled styles, punctuating each loss-laden phrase with poignancy, restrained bitterness, and self-assertion. She turns her hurt into something timeless.
Go on and hold her till the screaming is gone
Go on believe her when she tells you
But I’m the only one
Who’ll walk across the fire for you
I’m the only one
Who’ll drown in my desire for you
Bassist Pino Palladino adds an extremely soulful, riveting bottom to the song. Palladino stepped in after the untimely death of The Who’s John Entwistle, has worked with Paul Simon and was part of the original John Mayer Trio. His presence anchors the emotions Etheridge struggles to etch onto the track. The drumming by Mauricio “Fritz” Lewak also acts a part of the bottom’s bulwark power. Lewak worked on many of Etheridge’s albums but also sat in a number of times for Jackson Browne.
Etheridge’s plaque on Sunset Boulevard’s RockWalk
Most impressive among a number of praiseworthy aspects of the singer’s vocal is her amazing range, which rambles from a low, primal growl to soaring high notes that try to convince the listener she is still in control of a chaotic romantic situation. The performance may very well be one of the finest female vocals since Joplin died, and that’s going some length – 20 plus years.
Some believe the cut suffers from an overwrought sensibility that interferes with complete success. But honesty confronting despair has never been a particularly palatable serum for many to swallow.
It’s a great work of art and a cry directly from the pit of a woman’s broken heart.
- Melissa Etheridge came out as a lesbian at The Triangle Ball celebrating Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Much has been made of Etheridge’s sexual orientation. Her songs speak to everyone except the petty and self-righteous.