The first track, the title cut, of Dulcinea's Reneé's new CD, Smoke and Mirror, gives away the tone of the entire collection of 10 songs. Having just the other day revisited The Strawbs' Grave New World, I couldn't help but note the similarities of Reneé to the acoustic side of Dave Cousins' folk-rock opuses there and in all that 70s ensemble's work, but there was also a notable resemblance to Al Stewart's old catalogue as well. Atop the more ancient flavors was a recenter tang of Joan Armatrading, a mellowed-out and serious Cyndi Lauper, dusky Olivia Newton-John, and then the solo work of backing vocalists like Lesley Duncan and such.
Dulcinea's sole back-up is Jay Hallstrom, a multi-instrumentalist who in this cut drops in an electric guitar reminiscent of Dave Lambert's work with the aforementioned Strawbs while Reneé's acoustic is mindful of the old group's front man, Dave Cousins. If you're getting the feeling I'm missing that estimable ensemble, go to the head of the class 'cause I sure as hell am (yep, even though they're still around), but that's what grabbed me from the very first track, the title cut, here mixed with a tang of country. Probably the most distinctively Reneé-slanted song, though, is Pretty Faces, an unusually metered cut with Toni Childs overtones buttressed by an Edie Brickell-ish vibe.
Reneé's voice is clear and wistful, and the instrumentation of the two musicians is gauzy and mellifluous, the engineering (by Hallstrom) unusual and fetching. I haven't a clue how he achieved the balance, but it mixes the instruments with Reneé's voice in a matrix of cotton and clouds, keyboards floating about lazily, measured percussion soft and unobtrusive, random fluctuations artfully placed. This isn't a new-millenium CD, though it actually is, but rather a time piece caught between the transition from the 70s into the 80s, where the ache of an era passing is evident while waiting breathless on the doorstep of onrushing change.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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