Talk about a day late and a dollar short. My introduction to Meg Hutchinson came via last year's Winterbloom album, Traditions Rearranged, a look at the season through the music of Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton, Natalia Zukerman and Hutchinson. Duvekot was the reason I was there, having fallen in love with her music at first listen. In fact, she was the only reason I was there, not having heard any of the music of the other three, but it was an introduction I welcome. Three more excellent musicians to add to an already too large list with so little time to enjoy. Hutchinson's contribution to that album, Of the Magi, was a song based on one of the all-time classic O. Henry stories titled Gift Of the Magi. I love that story and the song made me feel warm. I should have known it was a precursor of things to come.
Those "things" have come in the form of eleven outstanding compositions included in Hutchinson's latest album, The Living Side, and they are shades of "Of the Magi," songs so close to the heart you can feel it beat. The songs paint introverted pictures, even the slightly upbeat ones. They are sunrises and sunsets put to music, every twisted phrase and hesitation of voice a brush stroke of sighs and dreams, some looking forward, some back into the past. Of course, these are my observations and not necessarily the songs' intentions. Over the years, Meg Hutchinson has honed her craft well and, like that certain artist with brush, leaves interpretation to the listener. She trusts that we have the intelligence to feel if nothing else, and to know or to try to find out what we feel. It is a breath of fresh air, this trust, in a society overcomplicated with detail. No backstory in the midst of a song for Hutchinson. Those just complicates things. For her, it is what it is.
These are good songs, honest songs, and borne of an artistry musicians strive toward but seldom achieve. These are accomplishments, pure and simple, eleven short accomplishments woven into one big one. You hear it when you listen front to back. There is a theme. When I studied broadcasting at university, the oft-repeated theme in my broadcasting classes was "the medium is the message." When I hear Meg Hutchinson, I can't help but think the theme is the music and the music is the message. Perhaps The Living Side is what the sum of the parts theory is all about. It seems so.
I've heard Crit Harmon before. I wrote a review some time ago regarding an album he had produced and played on and it drives me crazy that I cannot think of it now. It is not among those listed on his website, but it was one I was most impressed with, both musically and production-wise. I want to hear it again. The production was immaculate. It is immaculate here as well. Until I find that elusive album, I will immerse myself in The Living Side and be thankful for that. Hutchinson and Harmon. They've worked together before, I know, and are quite the team. Time to backstep to Hutchinson's earlier albums. It will be like panning for gold.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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