Antje Duvekot has one of the most distinctive voices among contemporary singer/songwriters. Her pitch perfect, sweet, delicate and poignant soprano is truly a gift. Ellis Paul has referred to her backing vocals on a number of his songs as sprinkling "fairy dust" over them. There's a kind of magic and beauty about her voice that is rare.
Her third studio album, and second outing with Richard Shindell at the production helm, is New Siberia. There is a set of striking photos on the cover, interior and back of the CD that suggest a beautiful young woman, almost mythic, emerging from a frozen landscape. The final photo shows Antje with binoculars in hand looking at what might lie ahead. All are fitting images and metaphors for the songs within.
The haunting melody of Into the City opens with a woman looking back on a romance that began with so much promise, but was destined to fail. Duvekot accompanies herself on background vocals with Shindell on guitar and electric piano, and Ben Wittman on drums and percussion.
Unrequited love is the theme of Duvekot's imagining of how Amelia Earhart's co-pilot on their final voyage, Fred Noonan, might have felt in the Ballad of Fred Noonan. The lyrics allude to the thrill of finding fame, which may be a metaphor for what Joni Mitchell referred to as the "star maker machinery" of the music business. Either way, it's a lovely ballad about the illusiveness of love. Shindell adds his voice on backing vocals here.
The emotional territory of the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter take center stage in Phoenix. One of the best cuts on the recording, it features some nice picking on banjo by Shindell, Marc Shulman on electric guitar and Jane Scarpantoni on cello. The song ends on a positive note, declaring "and that's how I became strong."
The theme of overcoming a dark past into a more resilient, brighter future is crystallized in the title cut, New Siberia:
I was looking for you
Sleepy Sea of Indigo is a sweet, gentle love song with Shindell accompanying Duvekot on the chorus. Mark Erelli on mandolin lends just the right touch of poignancy. The message seems to be, if you let your defenses down, love just might find a way in.
The recording concludes with the Mark Erelli/Antje Duvekot penned Juliet, which tells the story of two schoolgirls who become best friends and head out west towards their destinies. It is simply Duvekot on guitar and Scott Petito on bass, but that is all the song needs. It is a nostalgic look back to a more innocent, optimistic time.
Antje Duvekot hits all the right notes in New Siberia. And Richard Shindell surrounds her voice with great arrangements and even better players, allowing Duvekot's lyrics and superlative voice to take the listener on a magic carpet ride into the past, emerging into a brilliant future. I think that's where Duvekot is headed, too. There is no one like her. New Siberia is original and beautiful—a work of art.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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