Tightrope Waltz

Cate Friesan

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Tay Mueller tay@pharmacop.com

Think Of Me
Wake Me Up
Baptized (Prodigal Daughter)
Grandma's Song
Walking With The Wind

Tightrope Waltz covers a variety of styles, but this does not distract from the final effect of the album. Like a well-written novel, or musical theater, some scenes are character development, some plot exposition and some humor or suspense. You will find plenty of passionate torchy singing, country energy, a taste of jazz, and even Eastern European influence.

Cate's joyous and powerful voice is addictive. It enhances the beautiful words and the spirit of her songs. Her voice occasionally reminds me of Jane Siberry or Susan Werner, yet remains her own. The constant here is its strength, trembling with a power you feel you are just glimpsing. That voice starts off cool and sweet like a gentle prairie breeze, but before you know it, you have been blown away.

"Grandma's Song" was the first cut that pulled my attention. Like a Stan Rogers' song from a feminine viewpoint, this song captures the life of three generations of women in perfect little cameo portrait verses. Each had their life touched by the time they lived in and the decisions they made. The grandmother became a farmer's hardworking wife while the mother married a pastor and was drawn into his world. The last is a painting in progress where we can see the strength of the drawing beneath. We are left to wonder with her about the finished painting.

" I don't know all the dreams she had
Or how many she put aside
Because of the time she lived in
When she became my grandpa's bride

But I hope someday to have the patience she has shown to me
To give of love as freely as she gives
To have the strength to carry on in the choices that I make
The choices she never had the chance to take."
"Baptized (Prodical Daughter)" caught my attention next. It has a swirling, Three Penny Opera style hook in the music that had me dancing around the kitchen. It almost has you dancing out the door and onto the open road. Before you realize it, that infectious tune creeps in like the promise of an adventure and makes you think about running away from home to join the circus or live with tinkers.

"I was baptized by this riverside
I grew up longing for the sea..."

I found myself homesick for a place that is gone into time, where I am a little kid again. The gypsy music is my mother singing in the front seat an old Studebaker. Friesan highlights that sense of balance we seek between the exhilaration of freedom and the security of love.

"Passing" is a jazzy/bluesy number with a comic story and a serious message. There is a celebration of strength here, as three young women pass themselves off as men. They do all the things that they have been told girls can't do. Although it is told with a comedic touch, there is also a poignancy to the lives of these women who feel they must disguise themselves to be who and what they want to be.

The production by John Switzer is vibrant, colorful and rich, though a little more theatrical and less folky than I prefer. Switzer's is effective at setting the mood for the very different emotional impacts of the music.

This album has passed my most severe musical test - I have had a song from it running through my mind every morning when I wake up. What is it with these Canadian musicians? Is there something in the mountain water that inspires them? Are they issued a license to enchant when they are born? TIGHTROPE WALTZ now has an honored place, both in my subconscious and my CD player.

TIGHTROPE WALTZ is Cate's second release. It is distributed by Festival Records or write: Wide-Eyed Music, 29 Delaney Crescent, Toronto, ON Canada M6K 1P9.

Copyright, 1996 by Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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