Avital Raz is following up her subtly excellent Strange Love Songs (here) with this new EP-CD, a disc opening with an unorthodox approach to heterodoxy in Sweeter than Candy, a cut recalling a mellower than usual Annette Peacock or Julie Tippetts, both for presentation and outré lyrics. The sung stanzas, in fact, reveal more of why the evident but evanescent poetry exists so signally in her music. I won't repeat the lines here, they'd consume most of the review, but trust that they combine zen elements with the mortal here-and-now…which is the entire point of zen anyway.
The emphasis of Skin & Feathers is in fact that poetry, and Raz is as sacred as she is profane, achieving the loopy gritty worldliness of Ikkyu by way of Leonard Cohen. Ironically, given the singer's centrality, the backing band is extremely important, with Ofra Avni's flute once more sketching sky and birds into the songs as Itzik Yona's guitars pave the ground with soil, fauna, and pathway undulations cemented by Avi Agababa's percussion. With that fundament, Raz is free to float where whim and wind take her, terrain and taxonomy springing up at each moment. That being the case, Skin & Feathers bookends Love Songs, and I suspect she will prove to be one of those composers whose work is an ongoing continuo, somewhat like Dory Previn (but much better).
Definitely place Avital Raz in with the aforementioned Tippetts, Peacock, and Previn but include Larkin Grimm ( here) as well. At some point, I suspect Ms. Raz is also going to dip at least cursorily into Meredith Monk and Joan LaBarbara territories, Beautiful seems to indicate it. Not to put too strong a gender point on it, but the cerebrally oriented women in the audience, I'm quite sure, will take to this CD in the same way Melanie and Janis Ian much earlier enjoyed younger audiences overjoyed to hear their side of the slate presented in such a powerful combination of thought and emotion.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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