Mara Levine
Album: Jewels And Harmony
Label: Mara's Creations
Tracks: 15

You could say that accomplished New-Jersey-based jewellery designer Mara Levine lives to sing; that you can tell at once from her crystal-clear delivery, her excellent diction, her practised technique. She's been singing professionally for a little over a decade, yet Jewels And Harmony is only her second CD. It proves to be one of those almost-too-good-to-be-true records, where everything is so in-its-place: vocals are expressive perfection, arrangements telling and apt, interpretations classy, choice of material neatly mixing slightly familiar with unknown but very worthy.

Mara's own performance is peerless: she possesses an attractive, assured singing voice that recalls Joan Baez, Sylvia Tyson and to some extent also Judy Collins, while the tone and feel of the arrangements is very mid-60s too although without the dated aspect that tag might imply - for Mara's performances are genuinely timeless in style and execution, and will appeal to any folk fan who's enjoyed the above artists' discs, Mara too producing polished yet thoughtful, entirely accessible musical renditions of some classic material. She also has the considerable benefit of support from a host of really good musicians and singers from her local community (notably the genial combo Gathering Time and producer Bob Harris), with some excellent cameo roles and vocal harmonies provided by the likes of Pat Wictor, Caroline Cutroneo, Joe Jencks, supported by percussion from Cheryl Prashker.

The repertoire is both comforting (also familiar in idiom) and stimulating (songs you'll very probably not have heard but will want to hear again immediately). It includes two lesser-covered Paul Simon songs (April Come She Will and Leaves That Are Green), Bill Staines' River and Gershwin's Summertime (done in a refreshingly honest, simple bluesy fashion), alongside Jud Caswell's bluegrassy Blackberry Time, Bob Franke's seasonal offering Straw Against The Chill and the entirely apposite CD closer, Dan Schatz's Leave Time (on which the song's author himself makes a key contribution). The generous helping of new-to-me songs receiving exposure here includes Nancy Cassidy's rousing Hallelujah, Pat Wictor's delightful I Will Walk With You and a brand new Si Kahn song - written for this very album - When I Sing With You. Si Kahn himself duets with Mara on a matchless rendition of Michael Peter Smith's almost unbearably yearning and poignant portrait of The Dutchman, providing the disc with one of its many standout tracks. And notwithstanding Mara's own special vocal expertise, she's unafraid to let another singer take the lead where appropriate, as on the superb version of Rowland Salley's Killing The Blues which features Terry Rivel. The modest, entirely tasteful and fairly gentle acoustic arrangements are faultlessly configured yet retain sufficient sense of spontaneity to ensure a continued involvement on the part of the listener.

I really can't fault this disc either from a musical or presentation point of view (full credits and lyrics are in the booklet, which also features Mara's jewellery designs); its title Jewels And Harmony fair sums it all up..

David Kidman

Recent Reviews

The Creole Choir Of Cuba:Santiman

Natalie Maines:Mother

They Might Be Giants:Nanobots

The Keelers:Tyne And Tide

Sinead O'Connor:Sean-Nos Nua

Simone Dinnerstein/Tift Merritt:Night

Amy Duncan:Cycles Of Life

Nobody's Business:Easy

Stevie Agnew:The Wreckin' Yard

Christa Couture:The Living Record

Fallingham Fair:Songbook

Immigrant Dream

Fatea Showcase Sessions

The Fatea Showcase Sessions are a series of downloads featuring acts that we've really enjoyed and think that more people should get the chance to hear.
Click Here to get the latest session

Visit The FATEA Archive!