Reviews

Barbara Cassidy Band
Album: Leaving Things The Way I Found Them
Label: Suspicious Motives
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.barbaracassidyband.com

The Barbara Cassidy Band is basically the Massachusetts-based husband-and-wife songwriting team of Barbara Cassidy (lyrics) and Eric Chasalow (music), who've been fortunate in procuring the services of illustrious producer David "Goody" Goodrich and Signature Sounds' Mark Thayer to help them create this appealing CD. Inevitably too, Goody brings his own instrumental skills to the mix (guitars, drums, piano and glockenspiel), along with bassist Robert Nieske and violinist Ian Kennedy. Leaving Things The Way I Found Them contains the first fruits of the couple's songwriting partnership, and it's a really engaging start to their folk career, even though the first impression is ever-so-slightly bitty - in the nicest possible way, much in the manner of those classic 60s folk/folk-rock albums from the likes of the FariƱas or Ian & Sylvia where a number of different styles coexist, collide and collude to configure a patchwork tapestry of varying hues. Not that stylistic versatility is ever a bad thing of course. And the kinda old-fashioned way it's all brought together is very attractive in its own right.

Barbara's assured, persuasive vocal skills have been developed over sundry projects in the fields of music theatre, jazz and cabaret (she has a women's-studies doctorate on torch songs), and together with Eric she co-curates the oral history project The Video Archive Of ElectroAcoustic Music. Eric teaches composition at Brandeis University, has a background in electronic music and is an accomplished guitarist, also playing organ and various wind instruments on this record and contributing some (mostly backing) vocals. The couple exhibit a high degree of musical understanding and work well together, and their air of easy confidence belies the fact that this is their first recording.

The disc contains seven of the couple's joint compositions, each a distinctive and individual creation. I particularly rated the sweetly nostalgic (and intensely catchy) Banks Of The Galena, with its expansive and classy twin-electric-guitar arrangement, and Anna's Song - Shohola 1864, a traditionally-influenced narrative ballad with a strong family-history element (and a chorus melody-line that's uncannily reminiscent of Sandy Denny's Listen, Listen). Then there's the somewhat forlorn reflectiveness of I Once Wished, which contrasts with If Time Stood Still's more uptempo brand of wistfulness (its gently-electrified self-styled "zen rockabilly" setting fairly reeks of first-album Fairport) and the charmingly chirpy opening love-song How Many Times. The only item which didn't score for me was I'm Here Again, an over-obvious torch-song which (curiously) receives a less than compelling vocal performance from Barbara I feel. The disc's menu is topped up with two songs composed by Eric alone: the brief fun ditty Simon Simon is complemented by the (deceptively animated) setting of the rather sombre Spring In War-Time, penned by American lyric poet Sara Teasdale in 1915, which tellingly juxtaposes images of beauty and horror. There's also an unaccompanied rendition of Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood that conveys its sentiments with appreciable restraint and powerful reserve; and finally, a pair of traditional songs (Wayfaring Stranger and Sile Ni Eidher) that demonstrate Barbara's feel for the idiom sufficiently to indicate a possible future direction to pursue in parallel with her own songwriting.

David Kidman