Perhaps if Joan Baez had been born thirty years later, she would have had the musical consciousness of Lara Herscovitch, who wraps her emotions around the World rather than the military-industrial complex as did Baez. Then again, maybe not. Baez's persona, based mostly as it was on anti-establishment views, fed on Ego as much as it did Cause and numerous listenings to Juror Number 13 will uncover little Ego, if any. Let us say that Herscovitch now is as a matter of course what Baez was then on her best day, thanks to an unpretentious overview of life—her own and others'.
She translates Cause to music with so little Ego, in fact, that we hardly notice it. No browbeating, no soapbox, and yet the message gets through. People are starving. People are dying. It's up to us, for we are the adults here. Some of us, anyway. Call it folk music for the thinking human.
But it is more than Folk. It is Jazz and World and a handful of other genres (even comedy, as in a Smothers' Brother-type take on being stopped for speeding—Mr. Officer), all melded into a smoothly flowing musical stew. Sylvia's Eyes, for instance, floats on a light acoustic jazz rhythm with overlying jazz guitar a la Wes Montgomery, perfect accompaniment for Herscovitch's matching voice. Equally apt for folk festival or lounge (or listening at home). A look at what keeps some people going, Se Puede (It Is Possible) reflects the hope that we must all feel at times (or, in some cases, perish) in the face of seemingly incredible odds. African influence dominates Ddembe, a chant in the best Ugandan (?) fashion. I mention Uganda because the booklet features many photos of that country.
Indeed, Herscovitch effortlessly weaves a spell here—one in which the listener crosses musical borders with ease. A most listenable journey it is, too, thanks to a handful of excellent friends and musicians and a voice perfectly matched to each song. Simple, honest and very well recorded, Juror Number 13 is among the best folk releases of this year and possibly many years past. And it's largely because you can hear Lara Herscovitch, the human being, beneath the music. She is a good person. I know it. If you don't believe me, ask her. She wouldn't lie.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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