Carol Noonan is one of the great American singers. She is also a superb songwriter and musician. And when she performs or records, she takes along two of the best guitarists in contemporary music - Duke Levine and Kevin Barry.
In recent years, Noonan has opened one of the premier performing venues in New England, literally building the Stone Mountain Arts Center in her rural Maine backyard. She spends much of her time lining up a roster of nationally-known performers from the Indigo Girls to Marty Stuart, and performing at the venue herself, on a regular basis. She's made Stone Mountain her base, so if you want to hear her sing, excepting the occasional performance elsewhere, you need to travel the back roads up to Maine.
So when Noonan brings out a new recording, we want to hear where her voice takes us next. She got together with her frequent collaborators, the aforementioned Mr. Levine and Mr. Barry, and chose songs that touched them from the era that changed our lives forever—the Sixties.
Among the eleven songs here are three Burt Bacharach classics, two songs from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and a Lennon/McCartney tune. There is also a gorgeous instrumental re-interpretation of the classic, A Summer Place. The choices, some obvious and others not, are right on target, and beautifully rendered by Noonan, her stellar guitarists, Levine and Barry, as well as Sonny Barbado on accordion and Mike Rivard on double bass.
Noonan's version of the Rolling Stones tune, Ruby Tuesday, takes on a tinge of sadness and regret in her able hands. The focus here is on the lyrics with some understated work on acoustic guitar. Noonan adds new color and texture to this classic from the Stones' catalog.
I have to admit that Walk Away Renee has always been one of my favorite songs. Noonan's voice send shivers of pleasure up your spine when she hits the higher notes of her register. This classic song of love and loss, or the one who got away, has never been more poignant or more moving. Kevin Barry is superb on lap steel guitar.
In a recording of so many gorgeous covers, Burt Bacharach and Hal David's Anyone Who Had a Heart is a standout. Firstly, the chord progressions and changes are a challenge only the best singers can take on. Not only does Noonan rise to the occasion, but Duke Levine, master of all things string, shines on electric guitar as well. They make this all-time classic even better.
As Tears Go By captures some of the most touching ballads of the 1960's. The team of Noonan, Barry and Levine have chosen well, and have reinvented the sounds of songs that have long left their imprint on our lives, and in our collective memory. It is a tribute to their talent that now, when we hear these tunes, we will hear and remember these new interpretations. Kudos to Duke Levine and Chris Rival for the beautifully produced and executed sound of the recording. The music is stunning from beginning to end.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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