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Reviews: Caleb Klauder, Western Country; and Hem, Twelfth Night

Yes, this is a weird review pairing. But what else are we going to pair the soundtrack to a Shakespeare play with? Caleb Klauder might get old-timey on you, but Hem gets downright Rennaisance on your CD’s player’s [. . .]

Caleb Klauder
Western Country
[Hearth Music (2010)]

The name Caleb Klauder may be more familiar to devotees of old-time music than those of the country persuasion, largely due to his involvement in the venerable Foghorn String Band. Klauder’s musical alter ego happens to be old-time country with an acoustic-oriented, lo-fi sound that falls somewhere between 30-40’s stalwarts The Delmore Brothers and early 50s honky tonk with its cloppy backbeats.

On this mostly original affair, Klauder doesn’t play up the hot solos from steel/electric guitarist Paul Brainard, though there are plenty of those. Instead, what’s really on tap here are Klauder’s vocals, which aren’t polished like a natural crooner’s, but are unvarnished enough to have plenty of character. The end result is a better lyrical focus, hence making this as real as it gets.

—Dan Willging

Hem
Twelfth Night
[Waveland/Nettwerk Records 0 6700 30875 2 0(2009)]

This is the coolest show tunes album ever; it is the soundtrack to the Public Theater’s performance of Shakepeare’s play. There is a stillness and a serenity to the brief instrumental pieces, most of them written by pianist Dan Messé, that recalls Dvorák’s American landscape-inspired music. The “Illyrian Marching Band” plays the Irish/Scottish tunes—“Black Thorn Stick,” “The Rose in the Heather,” and “The Kerry Polka”—like a Baroque ensemble on a lark. Although the cast does the singing instead of Sally Ellyson, who knew that actress Anne Hathaway could sing so well? Many tracks sound like refrains from longer works and are so beautiful and promising that one feels almost stricken when they end.

—Bill Chaisson (Trumansburg, NY)

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