First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2009, Volume 16, #9
Written by John Metzger
Fri September 18, 2009, 06:20 AM CDT
The concept behind Song, the fourth solo endeavor from fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger, is a simple one. In effect, the album was designed specifically to highlight the traditional folk music that emanated from her home state of Maine. Song, therefore, has all the makings — at least on paper — of being a rote, academic exercise. Rather than sounding stuffy and pretentious, however, the collection is surprisingly vibrant.
Schneckenburger comfortably fits within the quietly exploding scene of new folk revivalists who are trying to bridge the gap that divides modern times from America’s rich, cultural heritage. Building upon the research that she had done in college, Schneckenburger scavenged material for the project by scouring through a series of old songbooks, many of which contained lyrics that originally were sung within the Northeast’s logging communities. Following in the footsteps of artists such as Uncle Earl and The Duhks, she then modified the compositions not only by giving them contemporary arrangements but also by augmenting them with a few newly penned instrumental interludes.
Throughout Song, Schneckenburger deftly leads her stellar backing band through a diverse collection of tunes, which span more than two centuries of work. Together, they frequently strike the perfect balance between the past and the present, retaining enough of the historical flavor of the compositions to give them context while also updating them accordingly in order to attract a younger audience. There is, for example, a sense of reverence in how Schneckenburger unites with Stefan and Sam Amidon to intertwine their voices on the hymn Harmony. Likewise, Celtic inflections appropriately drift through cuts like The Fair Maid by the Sea Shore and Jam on Gerry’s Rock/Willie’s. From the atmospheric electric guitar that creeps through the background of Young Charlotte to the folk-rock flair of Little Musgrove and Lady Barnswell, however, it is abundantly clear that Schneckenburger is working from a larger palette.
Sometimes, the music that Schneckenburger and her ensemble created is lively and playful (Lumberman in Town/Go Ken Go); at other moments, it is hushed and moody (Lovely Jamie). She wisely knows when to use her fiddle to drive the arrangements and when to use it simply to color the mood. The manner in which her warm, inviting vocals combine with the subtle interactions among the instrumentalists, however, is what brings the selections to life. Although her base of fans largely has been concentrated around the upper reaches of the Northeast, Song is compelling enough to bring Schneckenburger some much-deserved national attention.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2009 The Music Box