While this may not be a new release, I feel I owe this mention to Rose Polenzani, since several of the tracks on this album battled hard for spots in my top ten tracks of 2008 but there were too many to choose between. I first encountered Rose Polenzani during the thwarted mission to Catweazle which prevented us from picking Little Flowers and making it to the Lakes of Canada. This was a preferable second and her appearance with the mesmerising Sharon Lewis undoubtedly pleased the audience more than my incompetent tambourining ever could have. My most prominent memories of that evening include wonderful renditions of ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’, ‘You Were Drunk’ (which sound, without question, far better for the entwining of Rose and Sharon’s vocals), a rather odd recollection of a song with surprisingly regular appearances of the word ‘shit’, and a bizarre man who placed his rancid jacket on the back of my chair and leapt into the limelight with his show-piece ‘I Want to Start Something Good’.
‘When The River Meets The Sea’, a collaborative effort with Boston’s Session Americana was released on the 1st of October 2008 and is the follow-up to the ‘Kings and Queens’ EP of 2006 although it appears to have fallen victim to undue neglect from the blogosphere at large. It has established itself as my essay writing album, playing continuously until I finish. Whilst it may prompt me to write more quickly, this is certainly more for its motivational qualities rather than a pressing desire to turn the damn thing off. The highlights for me are ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’, ‘If I Could Hit You’, and ‘You Were Drunk’, and the lows the general prevalence of Christian drivel in the lyrical content and the void created by ‘Push Me If I Snore’. I only manage to recover from the latter travesty as a result of the spectacular lyrics to ‘Paying A Visit’ in which one, blissfully unaware of the more general climate of political correctness, pays a visit to ‘the cross-eyed man’ and the ‘pink-eyed man’ – a brilliance only matched by the lines ‘the moon is full tonight / It’s big and round and white / Like a blind man’s eye’, for obvious reasons.
This budding instance of ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ may never become a tumbleweed. I only wish I could credit the harmonicist and banjoist by name, but the anonymous compliment must suffice since Session Americana appear to wish to remain generic. The song starts, like its speaker, ‘trembl[ing] like a flower’ only to be happily decapitated by the blustering instrumentals and carried on their breeze. Even the tinkling guitar riffs entangle themselves with the pattering banjo and lolloping strings. Imagine running through a half-harvested cornfield on the basis of an unpredictable weather forecast, with only the occasional stubble catching uncomfortably at the ankles.
‘If I Could Hit You’ may begin with a disconcerting chuckle and continue with a similarly eerie cocktail of christian moralising and sexual healing, but brushing that to one side it is rather pleasing. The tension between these seemingly contrasting values and the conflicting temporal/physical restrictions and freedoms of the body is played out on the level of the music. The explorative instrumentals counter and confound the often conservative lyrics resulting in prevalent frustration and a kind of obiter dicta yearning.
‘You Were Drunk’ is only a highlight in that when I listen to this version I hear a different one which is far better and recorded acoustically with Sharon Lewis’s harmonies instead of the irritating men murmuring in the background. Listen to it and imagine it without the pathetic drums borrowed from any other song, acoustic guitars unadulterated by the attention-seeking banjo and harmonica, and with Sharon’s soaring vocals in the chorus. A brilliant track which disappointingly loses much of its sincerity in its americanaisation. ‘She Is A Rainbow’ is crucified to similar ends, preserving only the emotion of its precursor.
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