Professor and Maryann
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Ken Rockwood and Danielle Brancaccio formed the Professor and Maryann when Rockwood wanted to try out some new songs for the unruly octet that they both belonged to. According to Rockwood, they "sounded better when Danielle sang" the songs. Later, performing one of their first-ever shows at the legendary Manhattan venue CBGB's, they were discovered by Bar/None Records and were quickly signed. Their self-titled third album is another fine installment in the series of distinctive unclassifiable albums the duo have released. |
Like their last album, Lead Us Not into Penn Station, the songs on this album tend to lack a classic verse--chorus structure, favoring a more direct storytelling approach. Unlike their last album, however, which found Rockwood and Brancaccio equally sharing lead vocals, their eponymous album finds Brancaccio mostly singing lead with the occasional duet. Another difference is that no additional musicians are used on this album, making this an even sparser sounding album: Brancaccio sings and Rockwood sings and plays the guitar, concertina, and ukulele. A third difference is that the songs have become more sober and less light-hearted
. Usual Places, a delicate duet, with picking guitar in background is almost sad. Told from the perspective of two bankrobbers who pull off a heist, at the expense of themselves as they split up the money and their relationship afterwards in order to avoid being caught. It is a wonderful song that shows the potential that this duo has when fully tapped. The rare harmonizing Rockwood and Brancaccio do on this song make it a standout track as his subdued vocals contrast with her high breathy ones.
Another showcase for the duo's talents are the pair of History in the Making and On Ludlow Street, both of which sound like old-time pop songs from the 30s or 40s. Not You Not Me has a cute little memory that sounds instantly recognizable with a building crescendo that becomes one of the loudest, most emotional tracks on the album. Whirl and On Ludlow Street are clearly Rockwood's domain, taking over on the lead vocals. Whirl is an especially touching album-closing gentle love song to a music-box ballerina.
Identifying a single for radio play is difficult because their type of music doesn't fit into standard radio formats. Even an obvious standout like A Perfect Night from Lead Us Not Into Penn Station is not present on this album. Nevertheless, some of the catchier songs on the album include Usual Places, Wait for the Stars, and Not You Not Me. For a quiet alternative-pop sound, Professor and Maryanne is a terrific album.