A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Roberta B. Schwartz
I have been hearing the buzz about Carol Noonan for quite some time. First as a vocalist and member of the New England-based band Knots and Crosses, and then, after the group's breakup, out on her own with a recording called "Absolution." But I had never actually sat down and listened to her music. Listening to Carol Noonan sing is simply a revelation. There are lots of talented singer/songwriters out there playing and performing original acoustic music, but there is only one Carol Noonan. The voice is a haunting alto with an incredibly expressive vibrato. Imagine Sandy Denny with the rock-powered vocals of Hearts' Wilson sisters and you begin to approach Noonan's vocal talents.
While the recording features Noonan's powerful vocals, let's not forget the band: Duke Levine, electric guitar wizard and one of Bostons favorite backing musicians; Tom West on organ and piano; Ben Wittman on drums; Paul Bryan on bass; and Kevin Barry on both electric and acoustic guitars. These players give Noonan's voice a full band sound that drives the music. There is a great deal of talent here.
One of the things that makes "Noonan Building & Wrecking" such a pleasure to listen to over and over again is the range of musical styles that the band covers. From the driving rock beat of the opening cut, "Love You Till the End," to the more traditional folk of "Kitchen Girl," to the contemporary singer/songwriter sound of Amy Ray's lyrics in the luscious, romantic strains of "Comes In Waves," versatility sets the pace. Noonan displays a real talent for the nuances of love, heartache and the territory in-between, particularly in the country classic "Leavin' On Your Mind." After listening to this recording, one can only conclude that there is nothing Carol Noonan can't sing, and not a musical note or style that her band can't play. "Noonan Building & Wrecking" is a perfect marriage of otherworldly vocals to vibrant, driving musical accompaniment.
I would be totally remiss without mentioning the Carol Noonan Band's arrangement of the Knots and Crosses hit "Creatures of Habit," a song about love lost to sameness and routine. This is a powerhouse of a song where everything comes together: the poetry of the lyrics, the soaring emotions expressed in Noonan's voice, the driving beat of the drums and bass, the piano and electric guitar behind the melody, and the hook of the chorus ("I'm only gonna say it once/I love you more than I can bear/You tear my soul apart/Your cold heart."). The song is reprised in an instrumental version which closes this outstanding recording.
If you haven't already received the message, here it is: The Carol Noonan Band's "Noonan Building & Wrecking" is one of the finest recordings of the year in any musical genre. The unique sound of the band, with Noonan's voice leading the way, will hypnotize, mesmerize and make you a fan forever.
[Edited by Shawn Linderman]
Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reproduced with prior permission and attribution.