Lori Gordon

Bletherings From a Music Obsessed Mind

Annlaug – “November”

I’ve been waiting a long time for Annlaug’s debut album, November, to come to fruition. Demos of sparse fiddle tunes and songs had captured my attention and I was curious to see where it would all lead. November is everything I had hoped it would be and more. It’s sophisticated, engaging and musically diverse.

Featuring a Who’s Who of Scottish folk musicians (Mattie Foulds, Inge Thomson, Martin Green, Aidan O’Rourke and Anna Massie, to name a few), plus string arrangements by Kim Edgar, November delivers a powerhouse of sound and artistry.

Annlaug’s musical versatility is evident in the array of styles presented here. Rock, Americana, folk and traditional flavors are married beautifully on this album. Having primarily heard her fiddle tunes up to this point, I was surprised, and pleasantly so, to discover that the majority of November is sung. Regardless of style, Annlaug’s self-penned lyrics paint an intimate portrait of the songwriter. It doesn’t really matter that the lyrics are in Norwegian (English translations are given in the liner notes) because her voice ably tells each story.

The entire album is brilliant and it was difficult to choose favorites. That said, my favorites are “Hakestad,” which showcases Annlaug’s exquisite Hardanger fiddle playing; “Songen Eg Skulle Ha Skreve,” with its gorgeous strings; and the two traditional lullabies: “Suril Luril” and “Till Till Tove,” which closes the album with a sparse, haunting arrangement.

With November, Annlaug has established herself as a force to be reckoned with on the contemporary folk scene.

To visit Annlaug’s MySpace page, click here.



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February 25, 2010 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yvonne Lyon – “Ashes & Gold”

yvonne ashes

Yvonne Lyon’s latest offering, Ashes & Gold, is a brilliant study of the paradoxes of life: the hopeful and the horrific, the light and the dark, the beauty and the difficulty. The songs themselves range from the light-hearted to the heart-breaking.

Though Yvonne admits to really struggling with this album, between writer’s block and the high expectations of producing something better than A Thousand Questions Why, that struggle is not apparent here.

The album opens with “Feel the Light,” one of two songs inspired by Yvonne’s trip to Cambodia earlier this year. Though she saw abject poverty so extreme that even the simplest things could make a huge difference, there was still a sense of contentment and happiness that pervaded their lives. That optimism shines through on this song and it sets the mood for the emotional journey the album brings us on.

The second song inspired by that visit is the album’s most heart-breaking. “The Reckoning” was written after her tour of Toul Sleng, a former interrogation center used by the Khmer Rouge now turned into a genocide museum. It’s a lament for the women who lost husbands, sons, fathers and brothers, some losing 5 or 6 family members. The stark arrangement, primarily piano and voice, is breathtakingly emotional.

At the other end of the spectrum is the very light-hearted “Tiny Things,” a song about the wonders of the world as seen through the eyes of her 2-year old niece. Equally light is “The Coffee Song,” about those days when curling up with a cup of coffee and a good book is the recipe for a perfect day.

Overall, there is a beautiful sense of depth and maturity to this album that really highlights Yvonne’s songwriting abilities. Ashes & Gold is best summed up by “All is Not Lost,” a song that reminds us that everything we experience, whether good or bad, goes into making life what it is and that none of those experiences are ever wasted.

Even though the album certainly has its dark and intense moments, there is still a sense of light that shines through to the end. The result is an uplifting affirmation of life, love and sense of self.   Ashes & Gold is an exquisitely crafted album destined to shine for a long time.

To visit Yvonne’s official website, click here.

To visit her MySpace page, click here.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , , | Leave a comment

Yvonne Lyon – Fearless

yvonne lyon fearless

Scottish singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon left teaching to pursue a full-time career as a musician and that leap of faith has paid off on Fearless, her second full length recording.  Yvonne delivers her brilliantly-crafted songs in a gorgeous voice full of intimacy and emotion. The effect is soothing, heartwarming and inviting. While most of the album is in the acoustic/folk vein, Yvonne proves she’s able to rock out with numbers like “Subscribe” and “Mariana”.  An accomplished musician herself, she is joined by the likes of David Lyon, Chris Stout, Graeme Duffin and others to create the rich tapestry her songs are built upon.

On the surface, Yvonne’s lyrics are engaging and intimate, sweet and poignant.  Yet there is a deeper story here. Though her music is rarely labeled “Christian”, Yvonne is no stranger to the Christian music scene and her Faith-centered lyrics are just as welcome in the church as on the secular stage. “Mariana” is a lovely dedication to a woman able to maintain her faith in the face of hardship and grief.  In “Run To” there’s the realization that, even though we stumble and fall due to our own folly, God is still there. My personal favorites are the beautifully poignant “Come”, written for a loved one who has passed on, incorporating Matthew 11:28 as the chorus, and “Love”, a gorgeous song about the true definitions of love.

Fearless is an uplifting celebration of faith, love and peace and Yvonne’s heartfelt sincerity reaches deep into the listener.

To learn more about Yvonne, visit her official website or her MySpace page.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Edgar – “Wee Dote”

Kim Edgar Wee Dote

Wee Dote is the second EP released by Kim Edgar, issued a couple of years before her full-length butterflies and broken glass album. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the musical journey she has taken over the years.

The lyrics on Wee Dote are dead brilliant. Whether autobiographical or not, there is a feeling of intimate honesty that draws the listener into each song. They tell stories of love and uncertainty and disappointment and longing. “Thaw,” the song that won her a spot in the Burnsong Songhouse project, is a beautiful love song, but the shining stars are the  emotionally grittier songs “Shelf,” “Wee Dote,” and “Tucked In My Pocket”.

Musically, it’s quite different from her third recording.  Whereas on butterflies the music is an integral part of each story, that is not the case on Wee Dote. Here, the music almost seems to be its own entity; sometimes it supports the vocals, but other times it clashes, threatening to overwhelm them. Kim also sings in an American accent, which, combined with the jazz stylings, give the tracks a glossiness that is not entirely comfortable. However, her voice still retains its crystalline beauty and the genius of the lyrics easily negates such distractions.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with Wee Dote. If you’re a fan of smart, gritty lyrics, definitely give this a listen.

Visit Kim on MySpace or her official website.

To read a review of Kim Edgar’s “butterflies and broken glass”, click here.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , , | Leave a comment

Laura Jean – “Eden Land”

Laura Jean

Revisiting Australia, my current obsession is “Eden Land“, the second full length release by Laura Jean. The artist herself is also a new discovery for me. I came across her recently when I was exploring Jen Cloher’s music, as Laura Jean & her band currently form most of Jen’s “Endless Sea” band.

Eden Land” set out to be a concept album and it definitely achieved that. The 9 tracks flow into each other beautifully, carrying the listener on a musical river from start to finish. While the tracks can stand on their own, they lose a bit of their potency & magic when not heard in context. I have to confess that the first time I listened to the album, I felt a bit like I was in an opium den. Not that it was a bad thing. The music induced this sort of dreamy, floating, hypnotic sensation and I felt like I was waking from a dream when the music ended.

The opening track “Magic Unnamed/Eden Land” sets the mood for the rest of the album. The instrumentation is subtle, the backing vocals are ethereal – almost haunting, and Laura Jean’s voice is deliciously soft and gentle. Even on later tracks, when the instrumentation becomes more pronounced, there are never any jarring sounds, nothing to break the spell. The lyrics throughout are very personal, as though she has opened a door into herself and allowed the listeners to follow her on this journey of self-discovery. My favorite tracks are the opening track and “Eve“, though I really enjoyed the entire album

March 15, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Singer-Songwriter | , , , | Leave a comment

Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea

Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea
Australian singer-songwriter Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea can best be described as Folk Noir, with doses of indie rockabilly mixed in. Her lyrics are smart and introspective, delivered in subdued tones reminiscent of Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins. The effect is that each song feels as though it’s a secret meant for your ears only.

Jen has 2 recordings to date, with a third due for release in April. The first recording, Permanent Marker (2005), is a 4-song EP of sparse, dark songs. Two of those songs made it onto her full-length recording Dead Wood Falls (2006). This album features her Endless Sea band more prominently and they add a wonderful depth to the arrangements. Though there is a certain melancholy that flows through the album, it never becomes depressing. My favorite tracks are “Rain” and “Peaks and Valleys”. Since that time, the Endless Sea has expanded, most of the members also making up Laura Jean’s band. The new album, Hidden Hands, promises a broader, bigger sound and sees the group moving from ‘singer backed by a band’ to being a band as a whole. There is so much musical talent & creativity in the group that I’m really looking forward to their future projects.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , | Leave a comment