Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer are the best contemporary folk duo that you do not know—at least until now. From the first notes of the opening track, their debut recording, Seed of a Pine, grabs you and does not let go. Call it folk, call it Americana, call it what you will, but call it great music.
The harmonies strike you first. The combination of Fer's sweet voice with a touch of something different, something unique and McGraw's deeper baritone make some kind of magic happen. And then there are the players: Fer on both electric and acoustic guitar, McGraw on acoustic guitar, Nora Barton's cello and Peter Mulvey's vocal accompaniment on several of the tracks are standouts.
All of the songs tell stories that take you places you want to go. Fer and McGraw know how to pen a tune that keeps the listener hanging on each word—and each has contributed about a half a dozen songs to the project.
There's a sense of the west and the open country in every song here. The great landscapes that nature paints unfold in the lyrics. Sometimes you don't know whether you are in the midst of an emotional or physical landscape, or both. The opening track, So Comes the Day, written by McGraw, sets the stage:
A tornado of joy touched down over there
Fer's Golden Grey is a dreamy, lovely tune that takes you on a journey you don't want to end in a voice that brings Patty Griffin to mind, but is somehow sweeter and more familiar. This is her gift. And she plays guitar like nobody's business. Waking the Dreamer is another tune where gifted playing and vocals come together in a haunting melody made even better with McGraw coming in on harmony vocals. I don't think it gets much better than this.
I keep a list of players I have only heard on recorded tracks and want desperately to hear live and in person. After listening to Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer's exceptional musicianship on Seed of a Pine, they have shot to the top position on my list. It's not often that I get to be there at the starting gate of something that sits on the edge of greatness, but I think McGraw and Fer are at that place. Here is hoping that all of you reading this will go out and listen to the music they are creating, and that those in the music business who can make things happen in a big way, will. Seed of a Pine is my best recording of the year.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
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