taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs

SONGS OF WATER The Sea Has Spoken

It’s only my regret that a review of Songs Of Water’s second album The Sea Has Spoken hasn’t appeared closer to it’s official release date of March 23; news of such a terrific album shouldn’t have gone unmentioned for so long. But that’s exactly what The Sea Has Spoken is: a terrific album. It’s so rare that artists can blend classical and new age sensibilities articulately without being dull or overly pretentious, but Songs of Water has found a magical medium by interspersing bluegrass, West African rhythms and Gypsy folk, and in the process have outdone their self-titled debut from two years ago by huge strides. On top of an inexorable talent base within the six-piece (sometimes eight-piece) unit, there’s an adventurous spirit that seems to have impelled the band into incorporating literally an entire music store’s worth of gear. Opener “Everything that Rises” transforms the riveting hammered dulcimer of Stephen Roach found in the intro into a rich narrative that actively engages the melancholy violin of Marta Richardson and Sara Stephen’s cello. Beneath it all is the faintly persistent strumming of Jason Windsor on acoustic guitar that gradually asserts itself into the conversation to further complicate the flurry of emotions that the entirely instrumental track conveys.

It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds, however. The songs flow together fluidly for the most part much like the swirling body implied in the album’s title. Even the seamless transition from throbbing bass drum battling Celticinfluenced strings to happy-go-lucky cabaret of “Bread and Circus” seems wholly organic. Vocals are few and far between on The Sea Has Spoken, though when they are introduced on “Sycamore,” Roach’s breathy moan and Molly Skaggs’ ethereal rustle are carefully arranged so as not to impinge upon the song’s overall textural awareness. Skaggs and brother Luke aren’t the only ones from their famous family to make an appearance on the album. Their father Ricky, one of the most respected banjo players alive, makes a blink-and-you’ll miss appearance on “Sycamore,” though he asserts his presence further on the aptly named “The Family Tree.” The Sea Has Spoken is easily one of the most original and provocative releases to come out of the Triad area in a long, long time and overall, it’s one of the best instrumental albums of the year to this point.


Songs of Water will perform at Studio B on Friday.