Talon of the Blackwater
PROGRESSION: THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF PROGRESSIVE MUSIC LAURA SIERSEMA 'Talon of the Blackwater' Style: Jazz/Folk/Art-Rock/New Age Inspired by church singers and jazz greats like guitarist Pat Metheny, Laura Siersema brings the power of her crystalline voice and compositional skills to bear on her third release. Fluid, poetic vocals ride high in the mix. The performances are mainly the product of Siersema and Jay Hovnanian (producer/engineer/synthesizers), but are augmented by T Lavitz (Dixie Dregs) and other skilled players. The understated accompaniments are at times brilliant. Siersema takes the traditional spiritual "Wade in the Water" and makes it her own with a ghostly arrangement reminiscent of Daniel Lanios's work. "My Eye This Flower in Julep Runs" brings to mind Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Smile of the Beyond" vocal section, an indication of the timbre and clarity of Siersema's voice and the album in general. The excellent 14-minute closer "Along the Fenway" features cellist Eugene Friesen (Paul Winter Consort) and is strikingly beautiful. The pace of these compositions is slow and deliberate, and tunes like "Who Will Pass this On veer toward lounge music. But the stream-of-consciousness quality of Siersema's lyrics trumps this album's minor shortcomings. By Rick Tvedt LiveWire: Laura Siersema's 'Talon of the Blackwater' by The Republican Entertainment Desk Thursday April 02, 2009, 9:04 AM By Donnie Moorhouse When you listen to Laura Siersema's new release 'Talon of the Blackwater,' it is almost impossible to imagine that this talented local songwriter once felt uncomfortable with her own voice. 'I have always felt particularly vulnerable about singing, that continues to this day,' said Siersema. 'It was many years of studying voice, auditioning, before I ever felt a sense of freedom and connectedness to my own voice.' While the Greenfield resident's voice gives 'Talon of the Blackwater,' it's beauty, her writing is what gives it depth. 'It's (the record) everything I can say about the journey, condensed,' she said. 'With each of the albums, it was my life as I knew it up to that point.' At first glance, the talent is obvious but it just may be Siersema's work ethic that makes her stand out in a crowded folk field. 'I worked intensely for a period of 13 months on this material alone,' she said. 'I did not go into studio along the way. I wrote the majority of it first, then went to record it. The creative process was much more concentrated an experience, and the tools with which I worked were becoming increasingly focused and sharp.' Siersema is not unaccustomed to hearing comparisons to Joni Mitchell when people are first introduced to her art. 'I've heard that from a number of different people,' she said. ''Hejira' is my favorite album ever and her adaptation of 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' is one of my favorite songs. Though I did not come to know her work until later, I consider her one of my heroines. She is a poet too. The volume of her work is just amazing.' Siersema is working on putting together her performing schedule and has lined up an afternoon showcase at Borders Books and Music in Keene, NH on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Her full schedule, along with the brilliant 'Talon of the Blackwater,' is available at laurasiersema.com. Laura Siersema's Talon of the Blackwater Valley Advocate February 13, 2009 By Ryan Duffy Currently based out of Greenfield, singer/songwriter Laura Siersema offers her third album. According to her biography, she loved music as a child, attempted nursing school and dropped out, and fell back into music-not exactly the worst move, in her case. Siersema clearly has a lot to offer with her sonorous singing and her agile playing. Many of the songs on this CD are not far removed from some of Kate Bush's more subdued '80s output, which means flowing, ethereal vocals, murky, fretless bass, jazz piano, subtle synthesizers, some strings, drums and even bouncing marimba on one track. The record makes good use of silence and space at times, creating a fairly minimalist setting, circling and entrancing rather than forcing it's way in. Lyrically, the album uses cryptic poetry to evoke moods, rather than providing the listeners with cheap, cut-and-dried imagery. I liked this bit from "Along the Fenway," the 13-minute closer: I saw the future in somebody's hand They're gonna steal a wallet What does it matter when you're in-between the black sheep and the chosen one? Or how about, from the title track: Hurling shotgun shells at a wedding party brother half-cocked at the pulpit nausea always skimming just beneath Not sure exactly what she's alluding to, but anyone who can wield strong lyrical ability while avoiding pretension and tired clichés scores points with me. Lead track "Mother Mary Rose" slowly floats along, buoyed by watery and delicate guitar work, but the vocals cut through the mix, creating a disembodied ambience. Siersema's take on the traditional tune "Wade in the Water" is carried by clomping congas and is lit up like a jazzy old torch song. Fans of Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and even Leonard Cohen, albeit strictly on a lyrical basis, might feel at home with Siersema. MOTHER MARY ROSE Mother Mary Rose drinking from a fountain I feel the rain coming down like life or the remnants of a hurricane will you break me up? will you hold me down? Mother Mary Rose well he shook his head and I wanted to tell him it was alright but we were on the ocean it was breathing like a child I held him in my arms he was alone and so was I. Why do shadows fall so slowly hovering o'er this field of all who pass-- Mother Mary Rose my sisters and I spent out summers this way hardly noticed slipping over the many mountains slipping over the lush down of scooter slipping, slipping away. Vocal, Fluid Guitar Siersema Synthesizers Jay Hovnanian Brush Marcelo Woloski TALON OF THE BLACKWATER AND GRACES Somebody pulled the hair right out of my head something so small 'bout a quarter-size not me that's pointing a knife admit that you're wrong not to matter-- Don't you remember anything denting the car, the machete stealing bread and meat under your jacket-- get afraid and lie get afraid and twist things up your riddle underneath I go-- scraping up the sides and dropping down-- talon of the blackwater and graces. Hurling shotgun shells at a wedding party brother half-cocked at the pulpit nausea always skimming just beneath what's cheated you it's all coming up-- keep it down, keep it quiet it's a tailspin let's just get away-- scraping up the sides and dropping down-- talon of the blackwater and graces. So put me in your dress and step on my shoes tell me how much you like them take my picture, press it all over the house tear this roof off my head this throbbing in my heart-- keep it down, keep it quiet it's a tailspin let's just get away-- scraping up the sides and dropping down-- talon of the blackwater and graces. ^#^keep it down, keep it quiet it's a tailspin let's just get away-- Vocals, Fluid Guitar Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Synthesizer T Lavitz Lead Guitar Nate Comp Frame Drums Nick Falk Congas Marcelo Woloski GO CHILDREN SLOW Go children slow walk on the water what you become those suits and guns they bring the massacre down the tracks you ride raising your hopes under the gathering tree under the gathering tree-- All the wooden horses, all that's sleeping in the yard listen, can you hear me? there's gonna be a big trial, gonna saw the people up singing, all your questions like heads are gonna fall--you're swimming now as you lie awake at night lie awake at night-- Fix upon the bell you took, instrument you wore-- Go children slow walk on the water what you become those suits and guns they bring the massacre down the tracks you ride raising your hopes under the gathering tree under the gathering tree-- Vocal, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Synthesizers T Lavitz & Jay Hovnanian Percussion Nick Falk WADE IN THE WATER Wade in the water wade in the water children wade in the water God's a gonna trouble the water Jordan's river is chilly and cold saw the bullet holes around you chills the body but lifts the soul there are no questions Wade in the water wade in the water children wade in the water God's a gonna trouble the water If you get there before I do wants to save Tibet but he would run you over tell my sisters that I hear them calling Wade in the water wade in the water children wade in the water God's a gonna trouble the water Vocal, Electric Piano Siersema Keyboard & Bass Programming Jay Hovnanian Drums Bruce J. LeBlanc Organ T Lavitz Guitar Nate Comp Congas, Shakers, Tambourine Marcelo Woloski I WAS ONCE A SAILOR I was once a sailor and I walked on water too. Driving through this underground tunnel got a nun on my back trying to give me strength and comfort can't see anything but the blue tiles just can't catch my breath too many motors running here this is my sorrow-- Blasted down by the hip in her pocket like I was and you were too leaving her skin some kind of orange glow whatcha got on that smells so good, hop in the van, wanna go where it smells like sea-- I was once a sailor and I walked on water too. Parched in the sunshine and dozing on the water drifting through the afternoon inside this heartache I had a vision too-- I was once a sailor and I walked on water too. Vocals, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Drums Bruce J. LeBlanc Guitars Nate Comp Congas Marcelo Woloski THIS TRAIN Vocal, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Electric Piano T Lavitz Hi-Hat Nick Falk Shakers Marcelo Woloski JUMPING OFF THE BIG BOARD I am one of many thousand faces at the doorway you are too related to the climb if you put your hand in mine we're jumping off the big board-- Never mind what others may have told you 'bout the distance they were just too busy driving their cars into the ground if they stop to look around they might just see what it's been costing them-- I am one I am one. Looking for life, she thought she found her answer dozing in the back seat curls on his collar arm hanging limp out the Cadillac something held her back 'Why don't ya come on over this way?' she said, 'I like it better my way.' I am one I am one. I am just beginning to know that I can sing that I have power over the voices telling me 'Why don't ya do this, why don't ya do that?' Nothing wrong with me, I just like it better my way I like it better my way. I am one I am one. I am one of many thousand faces at the doorway you are too related to the climb if you put your hand in mine we're jumping off the big board jumping off the big board. Vocal, Piano, Keyboard Marimba Siersema Synthesizers Jay Hovnanian MY EYE THIS FLOWER IN JULEP RUNS My eye this flower in julep runs over salty seas I met my love, he belonged to me-- what finer shores and better mornings quicken on the breeze-- with parcels fine and critical I'll tell you what I know all I've carried washes down water into stone-- once ankled in the spring of loons your arms just cannot hold a child of sorrow falling free-- My eye this flower in julep runs-- Vocal Siersema Synthesizer Siersema & Jay Hovnanian WHO WILL PASS THIS ON You and I are not unscathed we seek the bones of our own making whisper in the smell of autumn who will pass this on-- We are one from the beginning deeper than the oceans sworn to me softer than a song-- I had always dreamed you'd be coming-- sweet as the morning-- I have seen the whole world touched tomorrow in each September listen to the voices rejoicing there you'll find love-- I had always dreamed you'd be coming-- sweet as the morning air-- suspended like heaven treasure always for me-- We are one from the beginning deeper than the oceans sworn to me softer than a song-- I had always dreamed you'd be coming-- sweet as the morning crisp as the leaves falling down-- Vocal Siersema Piano T Lavitz Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Drums Nick Falk Shakers Marcelo Woloski ALL MY TRIALS Vocal, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Drums Nick Falk Organ T Lavitz Shakers Marcelo Woloski ALONG THE FENWAY Noisy boys in their uniforms pushing through the turnstile down under Comm Avenue I saw the future in somebody's hand they're gonna steal a wallet-- what does it matter when you're in-between the black sheep and the chosen one? the choirs all sing for you-- along the Fenway-- Beautiful my fellow, tart queen of the back bay shaved his head looking for what he lost there goes the preacher thinks Jesus told him something I don't know-- listen the voices crying, saying mass awaiting my conversion I'll cross the sound for you-- along the Fenway-- Grabbed his daughter by the wrist and pulled her up the stairs spit on the platform, kissed her face who is the father descending as I pray to look the other way-- all around the furrowed brows on the outskirts of this famine seek an answer gotta tell all the children too-- along the Fenway-- Vocal, Piano Siersema Cellos Eugene Friesen Additional Vocal Alastair Moock c2008 Laura Siersema Produced by Jay Hovnanian Mastered by Jeff Lipton, Peerless Mastering Featuring: Michael Farquharson (MCA artist/Juno nominee) T Lavitz (Grammy nominee of the Dixie Dregs) Eugene Friesen (Grammy winning Paul Winter Consort) Nick Falk and Marcelo Woloski (Maeve Gilchrist Group) Alastair Moock Bruce J. LeBlanc Nate Comp (Josh Logan Band) Design by Chris Needham, Boston Photography Tanit Sakakini.