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06/06 Whisperin & Hollerin "Two Wings" Review
Lauren Sheehan's been a musician all her life, but has only recently made it her full-time occupation, and this is her second album. She calls herself a songster, by which she means that she presents songs from all the strands of American roots music.
This album is built from a set prepared for the International Blues challenge in Memphis 2005, and is thus heavily slanted to old blues and country blues numbers. Other areas of her enthusiasm are represented though, from A.P.Carter's "Are You Tired Of Me" to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' "Only One Only". Two instrumentals of her own composition round off the set.
At first hearing, I felt she was a bit polite and restrained to be singing the blues but closer listening reveals the subtlety and thoughtfulness of her art. Her voice has shades of Maria Muldaur about it though she doesn't project with quite the gutsiness of that singer. There is a kind of quiet soulfulness, though, that draws you in, shown at it's best on "Rising River Blues", where her singing and guitar playing are reined back with a low-key tension that demands your attention. She covers Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman" but twists the lyric to give a woman's perspective, and sings with slow deliberation to make sure you get it. I played it back to back with the original and felt the validity of her approach. Far better than being a slave to the tradition.
I absolutely love her cover of "Are You Tired Of Me", one of the few versions I've heard where the lyric is sung with feeling, and she does a fine version, too, of "God's Gonna Ease My Troublin' Mind". The production throughout is kept pretty simple, with Phil Wiggin's forceful harmonica playing providing support to Lauren's guitar on about half the tracks, and elsewhere mandolin and trumpet (!) adding understated backing. I think she's brave to cover a Gillian Welch song because I'm sure there are loads of people who believe Welch and Rawlings to be incomparable; it's a beautiful song, though, and all beautiful songs need to be wrested from their creators and given fresh life so three cheers to Lauren Sheehan for a fine version. It's a grower, this album, well worth looking out for.
Author: John Davy (medicinmusic)
> Original Review at www.whisperinandhollerin.com
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