Red House Records
P.O. Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Shawn Linderman
John Gorka, one of the most gifted and respected contemporary American singer/songwriters, once told Lucy Kaplansky she was damned to be a singer. Her new CD, Flesh and Bone, features eight original pieces (lyrics co-written with husband Richard Litvin) that prove her to be a fine songwriter, too. Her intricate melodies and perceptive lyrics reveal a woman firmly in tune with her muse.
The four covers included on Flesh and Bone act as a mini-showcase of her vocal talents. A rowdy bluegrass rendition of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" offsets the gentle traditional "Mary and the Soldier." The darkness of Richard Thompson's "Don't Renege on Our Love" balances the lilting country treatment of Gram Parsons' "The Return of the Grievous Angel."
Lucy's own songs are introspective lyrically, but only to the degree necessary for astute analysis of external events and observations. With unerring accuracy, she targets human nature and pierces the hearts of us all. "The Thief" savages those who take from a relationship without ever giving. In "Scorpion" the protagonist leaves no doubt of her intent to possess the object of her desire. "Still Life" (the source of the CD's title) is an achingly beautiful ballad of childhood; the simple but powerful instrumentation makes this a real standout.
The supporting musicians do an outstanding job on all the tracks. The playing of Larry Campbell, Anton Sanko, Zev Katz, Frank Vilardi and Marc Shulman is crisp, clean and tight. Backing vocalists Jennifer Kimball and Richard Shindell blend nicely--subtly enhancing the varied styles Kaplansky offers. The songs where John Gorka joins Lucy, however, are the jewels in this crown. "If You Could See," in particular, might have qualified as best duet of 1996, had Gorka contributed on more than just the chorus.
Lucy Kaplansky's 1995 debut CD, The Tide, proved her to be a consummate interpreter of songs. Flesh and Bone adds to that reputation. It also heralds Kaplansky the songwriter, coming into mastery of her trade.
Edited by Kerry Dexter (firstname.lastname@example.org)