Charlotte Greig, |
The beginning track on the CD is called "Oh Novelty." That it opens with instrumental wobbling mixed with a voice made for children's lullabies makes this a very unsettling CD. The tone of the music is also deceiving. At first thought, it seems the type of music to pop on the player when it's time for yoga or meditation, or just a light moment together with yourself.
Wrong. So wrong. There's nothing relaxing about the sounds that come from Charlotte Greig's mouth or hands. Her voice is like the conscience you've partially tamed, tied up in old rags and thrown out of sight under the stairs. But it's got you on edge because you know it's continually straining against its bonds -- any crack and it will escape like a shot and climb back inside your soul. It's a soft stroke of your cheek while you're waiting for the one-two punch.
Her voice is like no other. She's singing an old-time gospel-bluegrass melody but she's whispering like a devil in your ear. The temptation of Eve personified and reincarnated in song. At times her voice flows over your skin like warm liquid silk and at others it's like an icy doctor's probe pulling your insides out with just a slight change in sound or movement. Also think sexy, like Morticia Adams, the black-and-white version.
I'll describe her music as modern, edgy folk. The songs are eloquent and the themes (according to her notes) are recognizable moments of inspiration. Yet her voice is so soft that I often miss the lyrics and depend more on the tone of voice to express the song. Her instrument of choice is the harmonium, and if you want a description, you'll best look that up for yourself like I had to.
Greig has an original style that I find more interesting than appealing. She's got a very mood-inspiring voice and if you like your folk music edgy and intense, or need something to keep you awake in the small hours of the night as you tinker away, she'd be great company. Musically, the sound is strong, the voice is memorable, the style is just not for me. I keep myself on the edge enough without anybody's help.
Charlotte Greig's Winter Woods is a sparkling-cut crystal of an album, cold and sharp and beautiful to see. It's also frighteningly powerful. From the first shining notes of "Oh Novelty," the air in a room will chill. As Charlotte spins her tales of loss and wistful hope, the light seems to dim. With 10 pieces of musical poetry, Greig reaches past the mere physical trappings of winter into its starkly beautiful heart.
In another culture, Greig would have been burned as a witch, or possibly exalted as a shaman. Her voice, carried low but with such clarity and power as to seem high, carries the soul of the winter season in a way that just shouldn't be possible in the real world. That alone would be enough to carry this album, but Greig gives her performance deeper strength with a wide array of instruments. The liquid sounds of the dulcimer blend perfectly with her smooth vocals, and few artists play the harmonium with such an organic polish.
Charlotte performs both traditional and original pieces in the same piercing clear voice, though she sometimes allows her pronunciations to soften for the sake of emotion on the traditional pieces. It's unfortunate, for even the traditional songs she's chosen are somewhat unusual. The only one I recognized at all was "Shallo Brown," which I've often heard performed as a shanty. Greig performs it as a heartbroken lament, demonstrating in one lingering melody how much a song belongs to the performer.
The dark beauty of the album is brightened by the final song, "Heaven," a hopeful song that promises warm endings in every note. It may be the only safe way to leave these Winter Woods. It certainly makes you eager to visit again. Haunted and enticing, Charlotte Greig's Winter Woods is the perfect album to guide you into the dark of the year, and maybe out again.