The Lovers' Waltz

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

(Angel 55561)

Angel Records
810 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Marcus Turner
(marcus@earthlight.co.nz)

This is a fine CD, of the calibre you might expect from a couple of musicians with the pedigree and profile of this duo. It works on three levels.

First, if you listen to the music without reading any of the liner notes, you hear basically a fiddle album with occasional vocal tracks - mostly by Molly. Beginning very simply - a waltz with fiddle and piano - it progresses through tunes from the northeast, out over the prairies, through the Louisiana delta and across the sea to Ireland and Finland. Though the styles vary, cohesion is preserved as each tune is guided by the fiddle, sensitively recorded and tastefully played in a style which adheres to that of no particular country or culture, but borrows from many.

The arrangements become gradually more complex and the numbers of musicians increase, playing mandolin, triangle, snare, trombone, clarinet, sax, cornet, cello, accordion, whistles and several other instruments. The original duo becomes a full band playing kletzmer music and then swing jazz. Finally, the waltz returns. This time in a lusher version with bass, guitar and more strings. All in all, it's a very satisfying journey. It's hard to single out a favourite track, but listen out for Legends of the Fall, There's Honey on the Moon Tonight and Jack Teagarden's It's All In Your Mind.

Second, the liner notes present the album as a scrapbook of memorabilia from the musicians' lives, each song with its own story. Some are gifts to friends, some were composed for television, others commemorate particular events. Even the tunes borrowed from elsewhere come with personal insights and interesting historical information.

Third, there's the "concept." The Lovers' Waltz is a story which Jennifer Ditsler has written to draw the titles of the tunes and the lyrics of the songs together into a tale of a woman's lifelong love for her partner. The music, however, tells a perfectly fulfilling story of its own, without any need for such an elaborate, slightly strained fabrication. Also (and I'll bet this has already caused some wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the album's producers), the order of songs in the story and liner notes doesn't match the order on the actual CD.

When all is said and done, CDs are about music - and the music on this CD is amongst the finest. It's a very enjoyable album for lovers of the eclectic who lean towards traditional folk tunes and swing jazz played on acoustic instruments. A "must have" for lovers of swing fiddle. It will certainly be played more than once...

Selections:

  • The Lovers' Waltz
  • The Misty Dawn
  • The Mountain House
  • The Lover's Lament
  • The Contradance
  • Legends of the Fall
  • Prairie Love Song
  • Louisiana Wedding Bells
  • The Montague Processional
  • Give Me Your Hand
  • There's Honey on the Moon Tonight
  • Metsakukkia
  • Chosen Challe Mazeltov
  • Tiptoe Alley
  • It's All In Your Mind
  • The Lovers' Waltz

Edited by Cynthia A. Harney

Copyright 1998, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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