St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, and if you'd like something newer, yet classically celtic feeling, check out a CD from New England singer and fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger. Her self-titled release on her own Footprint Records is a mix of jaunty fiddle-driven instrumentals and contemplative vocal ballads, both original and traditional pieces, backed up by some special guests on double bass, mandolin, cello, flute and percussion. It's a rich, warm album that will make you want to gather round the hearth and declare a toast to the Blarney Stone. For more information, see her website at www.lissafiddle.com.
New York Irish band Black 47 will be making the rounds again this month in support of Bittersweet 16, a 16-track retrospective of the band's recording career from early 1990 to the present that also contains two new songs, “Southside Chicago Waltz” and “Joe Hill's Last Will.” The rollicking Irish rock disc was issued last year and includes their biggest early ‘90s hit, “Funky Ceili,” among other tracks. The band will be perform songs from it on March 15 at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago, at 2407 W. 111th St. For more information on the band, check www.black47.com.
If you're in the mood for something folkish that's more country than Celtic, check out the Legacy label's new compilation of John Denver material. The Essential John Denver includes 36 songs from the late Rocky Mountain singer-songwriter, ranging from “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” to “Annie's Song,” “Sweet Surrender” and later material.
Mew first came together as a band of ambitious 7 th graders who called themselves Orange Dog in Denmark (and got booed off the stage in their first performance). A few years later, and those boos had turned to screams of adultation, as they'd decamped to London to craft one of the most exciting albums on alternative rock produced in the double ‘00s.
Last summer, I reviewed their fourth CD, And the Glass Handed Kites, and noted that you can guess from the incomprehensibility of the title that this is a band with a surreal attack on music. They're also a band with grand vision and amazing instrumental finesse; this week I have been unable to pry the band's latest U.S. release out of my car CD player. It's fascinating, haunting, rocking, ambient, beautiful, evocative, and about 100 other awed adjectives that I won't run through. This is a phenomenal art-rock album that Europe has actually known about for a few years -- “Frengers” is Mew's third CD, but until now, it has never been issued in the U.S. And that's America's loss (and now gain)!
Frengers brings to mind the best and most innovative work of Yes and early Genesis, melded with the modern rock attack of Radiohead or Muse. Each of its 10 songs is like the chapter in a building drama, leading to the 9-minute largely instrumental finale of “Comforting Sounds,” which is a perfect demonstration of how to bring a listener to tears with just the emotion of your melody and instruments.
This is music to get lost in… for days. Jonas Bjerre sings in a stratsophere all his own, and on “Symmetry,” the ethereal ante is upped even more as he duets with the whispery-voiced Becky Jarrett on a piano and string-buoyed ballad that is nothing short of phenomenal.
If you are a fan of rock music that goes beyond the three-minute pop song, you owe it to yourself to discover this album.
Get lost with Mew in public: the band will perform at the Double Door on March 28 in Chicago.