Rose Laughlin favors a simple straightforward approach to her music in The Chicago Sessions, a modus where her voice and its often languid intonations dominate. No song has more than three accompanists and she's leaving the bulk of the guitar duties to Mike Kirkpatrick. As far as I can tell, all but two of the cuts are trad—that, at least, is the pointed inference of the liner and site comments—and thus Sessions constitutes a reversion to an elder folkier milieu wherein the root essentials are pronounced. When most of these songs were written, some form of the troubadour still existed.
Laughlin's alto is babydoll-ish but prairie and Appalachian oriented with the edges of old Eire peeking out. Kat Eggleston blends her voice in on half the tracks, lending a McGarrigle Sisters, Roches, and UK madrigal aspect. The central concern is the human condition and its woes…save for the Gershwins' Summertime, which everyone knows is celebratory despite status as a blues number. On the other hand, the song does connote a social backdrop, as does Wild Mountain Thyme, which is positive but only as against options to the present, utopian thoughts and actions.
Storms are on the Ocean perhaps best exemplifies what Chicago Sessions is all about: simple, with very basic instrumentation, absolutely no solos or grandstanding, it zeroes in on beautiful duet singing and plaintive lyrics. Appropriate, then, that it's followed by the a cappella Unquiet Grave, a paean to death and love…with unsettling witchcraft side notes. In all, then, this is a return to an earlier day, pre-electronics and walls of sound, dependent upon the innate artistry of the recitation and recitor, an acid test of earnest, and either ya have it or ya don't.
Rose Laughlin has it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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