Judee Sill's second and final LP, 1973's orchestral tour-de-force HEART FOOD, closes with a miniature square-dance coda after all the artful chorales of "The Donor." In hindsight, it's instructive to compare Sill's skillful arrangements with the hippie grandiosity permeating Neil Young epics like "Expecting To Fly" and "Broken Arrow" (from Buffalo Springfield's AGAIN). Like a psychedelic schoolmarm, Sill brings an impressive emotional discipline and strict musical order to even her most ambitious forays.
It remains uncanny how little of Judee Sill's troubled, quasi-criminal life history is actually reflected in her music. For her contemporary Gram Parsons, his chaotic, somewhat diffuse personality found a bulwark in country music, which then drove him to redefine American rock in its image. For the made-of sterner-stuff Judee Sill, it's a suprisingly hardcore Catholicism that runs throughout all her work, which is also shot through with pure classical and Western folk influences. For example, she will punctuate "The Donor" with a masterfully harmonized "Kyrie Elison." Not too many other '70s singer-songwriters could get away with such a trope or would even think to go there.