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The Wingdale Community Singers - Spirit Duplicator

Spirit Duplicator

The Wingdale Community Singers

Scarlet Shame Records - SSR014

Available from Scarlet Shane Records in Fall 2009

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I have a collection of records that usually stuns people when they first see it. That homey museum, however, is divided into two sections: one a permanent collection, the other composed of thousands of LPs bought when I worked in aerospace, a slush pile slowly pored over. Recently, I decided to go through them all and cull the winners, sell the losers (and good luck to that in this economy!), and see what happens. Mostly, I surprised myself at the amount of folk and Americana musics tucked away, many of them warm reminders of the 60s and 70s. Spirit Duplicator, then, wouldn't have surprised me a bit had I found it as a Vanguard or Flying Fish label late 70s release…but more Vanguard than FF.

This collective of Brooklyn musicians has mastered the art of sparsely decorated folk music with light shades of jazz and done so in a way that speaks authoritatively. Each cut is a wistful and airy sculpture of unpresuming musicianship and singing that digs deeply into the listener's aesthetics precisely because it's riven with 100% discernment and quietly deceptive allure. Joni Mitchell was kinda in this territory in her earliest period (Blue, Clouds), but, frankly, the Wingdales appoint their interior sonics more attractively. And their lyrics are compelling, too, often elliptically so:

I was once a young man
I grew beans on the land
I wore a scarf, I drove a truck
My teeth were good, I had good luck

When crops were good, I drank all night
When crops were bad, I put them right
And once upon a time I had a wife
Things go wrong in this lonely life

The summer's long, the winter's mean
I'm living for the time between
I've seen the floods swamp the town
I've seen a twister kiss the ground

But if you want some words for your song,
That's not the place I belong
In your song

…leaving half the canvas for the listener to fill in with thought and quizzicality. It's an interesting exercise not much tendered any more. Then there's the very dark, honest, and obscene narrative in Montreal, which I'll leave for your discovery, a place where you'll also begin to get ahold of the Wingdalers' sometimes chambery wont. Think of all you wanted out of Dory Previn, of the times when Laura Nyro got closer to quietude, of the plaintive side of Jane Oliver when she did it right, and then a very serious Guggenheim Grotto without the pop, and you'll have this group somewhat cornered. On the other hand, don't be surprised when, after the CD winds down, you find out you're the one they figured out because you'll be somewhere in the cast of characters if you listen closely.

Track List:

  • I'm in the Mood (To Drive) (Marcus / addl. lyrics by Moody)
  • Rancho de a Muerta (Marcus / Moody)
  • I was Once a Young Man (Rick Moody)
  • Pofilia (Nina Katchadourian)
  • Naked Goth Girls (Marcus / Moody)
  • Aviary (Nina Katchadourian)
  • Let My Ship Pass By (Rick Moody)
  • AWOL (Marcus / Moody)
  • Montreal (Hannah Marcus)
  • Roses at Night (Gonson / Moody)
  • Tears in my Tequila (Hannah Marcus)
  • On the Carousel (Rick Moody)
  • My Les Paul (Hannah Marcus)
  • Sleepers on the Block (Marcus / Moody)
  • Death is Only a Dream (A.P. Carter)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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