Lucy Kaplansky is truly one of the best performing songwriters currently packing a guitar and taking her songs on the road. She has paid her dues as a backup singer for the likes of Suzanne Vega, Nancy Griffith and particularly, Shawn Colvin. She has eight studio albums to her credit, and two CD-length collaborations.
Reunion is her new solo recording, and it is her best yet. All of the hallmarks of her best work are here—the personal and emotionally unflinching stories, the complete honesty of her lyrics and vocals, and then there's the voice—the one that singers want backing them in harmony, and the one fans want to hear front and center.
Much of the work here—the beautifully crafted and sung story songs—is deeply personal and moving. Much of it addresses issues of family, with Kaplansky's familial connections running deep and clear. The cover of the CD is an illustration—a painting of her grandmother's bakery in Toronto. The interior of the accompanying booklet is filled with family photos and portraits. All of Kaplansky's lyrics are co-written with her husband, Richard Litvin. The songs are about family relationships—some tell of heartbreak at the end of life, some tell of love and longevity.
Mother's Day describes the unbreakable bond between a mother far from home, returning to the warm bed and ordinary day to day life of mothering her daughter. The wonderful Kevin Barry plays acoustic guitar with John Gorka on background vocal.
Reunion is the title track and centerpiece of the recording. It tells the story of a family reunion that takes the family from Chicago to Toronto in 1971 to gather around the family matriarch:
Now here we are together
The song goes on to describe the likeness of the dad and his brothers and what they give to one another. It seems simple—the bringing together of family—but underneath it all there is so much emotion. And the listener is drawn in by the commonalities we all have, and by the strength of Kaplansky's voice. There is a wistfulness here as if she is looking at the family photographs and remembering those who are still here and those who are gone—all the way back to 1971 and that day in Toronto. Duke Levine strikes just the right plaintive note on mandolin, with Richard Shindell on supporting vocal.
I'll See You Again breaks your heart with its tenderness, reaching for memories of days gone by. The song traces the moment Kaplansky's parents met, their connection to one another, and the slipping away of one, and then the other. What is left is the memory of both, and their love for one another.
My Father's Son describes the poignant reunion of a reclusive father and his loner son fifty years after the boy left home. The stringed instruments are so beautiful here with Kevin Barry on electric guitar, lap steel and dobro, and Duke Levine on electric guitar, national guitar and a lovely dulcimer. Lucy accompanies herself on backing vocal, with her voice resonating in multiple layers, urging us to "remember—"
There are also excellent covers here of songs by Amy Correia, Slaid Cleaves and Lennon/McCartney.
There is something very special happening within the covers of Lucy Kaplansky's CD, Reunion. From the beginning song to the final ballad, the listener is moved by each and every story told in music and lyrics. While the tales might be personal in origin, they tell the story of all of our lives: our mothers and grandmothers, our fathers and sisters, sons, daughters and brothers. Kaplansky has never been in better voice. The beauty of this recording makes it one of the best CD's produced this year. It is something special, indeed.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
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