Taking a Listen
reviews of local & state music CDs
MIKE AND RUTHY — Waltz of the Chickadee
There’s a kind of chemistry that can only exist between a newly married couple and it’s perfectly ensconced in the second album by partners in music and in life Mike and Ruthy (ww.mikeandruthy.com).
Formerly of alt-folk favorites the Mammals, the pair has carried over their sweet and sentimental sound into Waltz of the Chickadee, 12 deeply-personal songs inspired by everything from the birth of their son (“Slow Train”) to their feelings on Michael Moore’s Sicko (“The Doctor’s Door”). The entire album has an incredibly relaxed, almost sleepy feel to it, but it’s never sluggish. It’s full of highly uncomplicated harmonies and instrumentations that do little to challenge the listener, but that’s also where the utter splendor within is to be found; it’s akin to a warm breeze in the summer or watching the leaves fall in autumn. Even the more quickly paced numbers have a distinct easiness thanks to Ruthy’s pacifying voice, which elicits many of the same feelings as that of Gillian Welch. They do break their stride on a cover of “Dust Bowl Blues” that turns the Woody Guthrie classic into an uppity swing bit, but it works nicely within the greater context. While there’s overall very little risk-taking within, Waltz of the Chickadee is a fine example of how music at its simplest still is just as engrossing.
Mike and Ruthy will be performing at the Garage on Thursday, October 8 and at the Shakori Hills Festival on Friday and Saturday.
MIRAH — (a)spera
There were so many comparisons to be drawn between a young Tori Amos and Mirah over her first few albums that it almost seemed like the latter was a reincarnation of the former. Yet, it seems that with every album, the nervous spunk wanes further toward reticent complexity. She makes a brief reference to her younger days on the opener “Generosity,” but it doesn’t take long before it feels as if maturity and changed her for good. She still retains the allusive mastery that becomes her and it begins with the album’s title, a portmanteau of the Latin words asperak (adversity) and a spera (hope), and subsists all the way through the album’s closing number “While We Have the Sun.” As the nuances of the title might suggest, (a)spera is ambitious in its subversive criticisms of materialism, unanswered feelings and the ensuing romantic misery. Mirah has always been a strict minimalist when it comes to arrangement, preferring to let her glassy voice jump off of the track at all time, and this album is no different. She does, however, tend to direct the focus to one single instrument, whether it be the harp on “Shells” or the military marching drums of “Country of the Future.” It’s hard to say whether the album’s brooding nature will come to define her future work, but Mirah is still capable of moving to any number of emotions with only a few words.
Mirah will perform at Studio B in Greensboro on Tuesday, October 13.
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