Saturday, April 26, 2008

In Review---Bright Lights from the Southwest

Jay & Tinesha Begaye
Night of Northern Lights

Canyon Records

Navajo veteran singer Jay Begaye and his 19-year old daughter Tinesha (Navajo-Cree), celebrate the Northern Lights with an electrical collection of round dance songs. Lakota flutist Anthony Wakeman also contributes his talent to Nights of the Northern Lights.

While Jay offers impressive vocal, songwriting and drumming talents to this disc, Tinesha shines here with her powerful vocals and round dance song writing skills. She brings feelings of joy and brightness reflective of her youth. And some of you might recall Tinesha's debut CD, Rhythms of Love which was recorded 3 years ago and reflected on her teen years.

Jay and Tinesha's story that appears in the liner notes adds warmth to this recording. The actual tracks reflect on both the spirit and secular worlds embellished by hearty vocals and the beat of the round dance drum. Anthony Wakeman contributes flute to Tinesha's Little Brother (dedicated to her 21 month year old brother), and Words of Honor.

While Jay will keep the tradition alive through his talents as a song writer and musician, Tinesha will take the torch forward, hopefully inspiring more First Nation youth to perform First Nation traditional and original music. Not all of the Northern Lights are shining in the sky--some of them shine here on Mother Earth.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

In Review--Snow, Tulips & Harmony

The Wailin' Jennys
The Lincoln Theatre

Mount Vernon, Washington

Friday, April 18, 2008

While tulips bloomed throughout the valley, snow fell from the April sky, and tourists crowded country roads, Winnipeg's The Wailin' Jennys set loose dazzling harmonies. The quartet's debut performance in Skagit Valley drew a capacity (sold-out) enthusiastic audience. The Jennys delivered one immaculate tune after another, with a few hearty side trips tossed in. I doubt anyone left The Jennys' Lincoln Theatre performance disappointed.

Members of the Jennys', Ruth Mood (soprano vocals, accordion, banjo, guitar), Heather Masse (alto vocals & standup bass), Nicky Mehta (mezzo-soprano vocals, trap drum, harmonica, guitar) and Jeremy Penner (mandolin and fiddle) performed music--not easily categorized. Perhaps we can invent a new genre called human music. The musicians performed new work and traditional songs, as well as, favorites from their recordings, 40 Days and Firecracker. The women sung
a cappella and accompanied pieces with razor sharp intonation and perfectly calibrated harmonies.

Some highlights include Ruth Moody's tribute to her parents (Heaven When We're Home), who drove down from Victoria for the concert, and Nicky Mehta's poignant Starlight with a narration of the tragic lyrics. Heather Masse showed off her jazz vocals on Lead Belly's Bring Me a Lil' Water Silvy and on Tiptoe Through The Tulips in which the women recalled The Andrew Sisters (and thankfully, not Tiny Tim). Heather also brought out some of her penned tunes, including one about driving a long ways across Upstate New York to visit her boyfriend (who decided to become an organic farmer).

The encore is also worth mentioning which included the universal spiritual One Voice. A moment of silent anticipation was followed by a synchronized breath that launched the final song, (The Parting Glass), of an unforgettable concert on a memorable evening. The Wailin' Jennys with their charm, humor and vocal harmonies will be a hard act to follow. And of course there will be fans who will start a count down until these women return to the Lincoln Theatre's stage.