135 W. 26th Street Ste. 11B
New York, NY 10001
A review written for tha Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Ed Kohn
How many cuts do you really expect to love on one album? If I find two great songs on one CD, I'm ecstatic. By my count, Margo Hennebach's new album, Michaelean, offers double ecstasy.
Reminiscent of the melodocism of early Joni Mitchell, the broad piano accompaniment of Chris Williamson, and the vocal clarity of Anne Hills, this album is for listeners who like beautiful music. The fact that it's tied together by a search for defining who we are through family and friends gives the lyrics universal appeal, but the really satisfying part is the pure musicality - and that's what I listen for.
The opening song, I Don't Sing, asks how involved we must be with our lives. Can we just stand by and watch life pass, or are we surrounded by things "We all were born to name," as Hennebach suggests? Given the power of her singing, it seems Hennebach has declared her answer.
The title track, Michaelean, feels more like a dedication than a title tune. Hennebach tells the story of her sister's adoption -- at least as she imagines it -- in this lilting, piano-drenched ballad. The repeating lines, "You are my dream of what a sister should be/You are everything to me Michaelean," is so enticing to listen to and offers such broad appeal, it makes the listener consider how we all use relationships to define ourselves.
The Fisherman's Wife is a Ewan McColl song about the life of the wife of a traditional Irish fisherman. In McColl's hands, that life is a very harsh and lonely one indeed, but embraced by Hennebach's gentle piano melodies which preceed and follow McColl's song, it becomes more of a timeless and comforting air.
Then there's Remembering, an affecting portrayal of love gone sour - and empty, and Mercy which celebrates the friends who help make Hennebach all she is and help define her among so many possibilities. Wonderful songs all.
Michaelean is a beautiful album - steeped in gorgeous melodies augmented by lush piano phrases and clear-eyed guitar licks. Drums, bass, cello, and other instrumentation have been added to bring breadth to the sound, but this is a quiet and gentle production that allows the focus to fall squarely on the lyrics and the lyricism of Hennebach's remarkable melodies. Michaelean is available from 1-800-PRIME-CD. Available on CD for $15 and cassette ($10).
Edited by Kerry Dexter