Reviews of this week’s CD releases
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/12/2021 (306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I Thought of You (You’ve Changed Records)
“There was never a plan. No need to explain. And here I am, starting over again,” are the first lines of You Gave Me the Key, the opening song of Julie Doiron’s first solo album in nine years. With its chiming, dual-guitar melody, cruising-with-the-top-down vibe, lush backing vocals and even power-pop handclaps, this joyous tune could be about new love — but it also works as an explanation of this record’s origins.
Doiron’s boyfriend, Quebec indie rocker Dany Placard, knew that — after several collaborative projects (and a couple of EPs of Spanish versions of her older material) — the former Eric’s Trip member was writing songs again; he had been gently encouraging her to record them. A backstage conversation with guitarist/keyboardist Daniel Romano (a Doiron collaborator who also runs the You’ve Changed label) and his drummer brother Ian led to that pair signing on and by February 2020 the quartet, with Doiron playing guitar and Placard playing bass and engineering, was in a Quebec studio, laying down nine new songs and re-recording versions of four others (Thought of You, Good Reason, Cancel the Party and Ran).
The result is a 41-minute, 13-track collection that underscores Doiron’s reputation as a paragon of uncluttered, singer-songwriter honesty. In just a few words, set to the admirable alt-country-folk-roots-psychedelic stew of the Romanos and Placard, the New Brunswicker gets to the heart of the matter with seductive ease. She and the band can kick up a Crazy Horse-like fuss (check out Daniel Romano’s guitar on The Letters We Sent) but, she’s also capable of bringing you to tears with nothing but a guitar and her aching voice, as on Darkness to Light. This is wonderful stuff. ★★★★
STREAM THESE: You Gave Me the Key, Darkness to Light, The Letters We Sent
— John Kendle
Sara Schoenbeck (Pyroclastic Records)
It’s probably unnecessary to point out that the bassoon is not a particularly popular jazz instrument. However, in the hands of a wonderfully creative musician, it clearly shows it belongs.
American bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck’s self-titled album has nine tracks of duets — each one with the bassoon and a variety of partners. These include drummer Harris Eisenstadt, flutist Nicole Mitchell, guitarist Nels Cline, soprano player Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Mark Dresser, pianists Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb, and cellist Peggy Lee.
In general, there is a compositional base that provides greater or less room for improvisation. Several of the tracks, such as Suspend a Bridge (nice double meaning there) with Lee are virtually total improvisations, while others, such as Lullaby with Cline, offer a “slowcore esthetic.”
The overall mood is meditative, perhaps because the bassoon is better suited for a less-than-wildly-swinging groove. The collective creativity here is very impressive. Each partner is tied closely to Schoenbeck so that the effect is one of peace and synchronicity. The longest track, with pianist Mitchell, is Auger Strokes, and it’s a highlight in an album that maintains the “Oh, yes” factor throughout.
Generous notes outline the story of the compositions and add to the pleasure and understanding of the tunes. Most of the duet partners are musicians with whom Schoenbeck has worked over the years; she explains the connections in her notes. She also expresses her love of the classical tradition for bassoon, while admitting to the limits often imposed by that tradition. She blends this love seamlessly while stretching the conventional limits of an instrument. This is a delightful album on all levels. ★★★★1/2
STREAM THESE: Auger Strokes, Sand Dune Trilogy
— Keith Black
Updated on Thursday, December 2, 2021 11:50 AM CST: Adds webhed