Lorraine a' Malena,
Mirror Mirror
(Aranya, 2005)

The Fabulous Lorraine tells a merry tale of her meeting the mysterious Malena, and of their immediate realization that they were twinned souls destined to meet and -- more importantly, so far as I'm concerned -- make music together.

Lorraine Garland is writer Neil Gaiman's assistant (and really, how cool of a job is that?), while Malena Teves was selected to be Gaiman's Morticia Addams-like assistant while he was hosting 13 Nights of Fright on the Fox Movie Channel (also cool). Sensing an immediate connection, Lorraine contacted Malena, and the two discovered numerous mutual passions. (As their website explains, "They wear the same clothes, like the same music, and both have an affinity for dead things.")

Goth-folkies of the world, rejoice. Lorraine a' Malena have issued their first CD together, aptly titled Mirror Mirror and hopefully the first of many.

As in Garland's prior projects -- the Flash Girls and Folk Underground -- this album benefits from Gaiman's songwriting and the musicianship of Boiled in Lead's Adam Stemple, among others.

So, just how well do these two ladies sing together? Let me put it this way. They sound, alternatively and sometimes simultaneously, like the sort of women who might seduce you by candlelight or soothe your fevered brow with moist cloths and kisses, who might join you in hearty gales of laughter or suck the jelly from your eyeballs in some arcane ritual to gain mastery over your soul. They're untamed and dangerous, both witches and warriors in spirit. Oh, hell, just take my word for it, they sing real good.

The album begins darkly. "Dark Sonnet" (words and music by Gaiman) is laden with mystery and atmosphere, a gothic treatment on love that flows like heavy fog. "I don't think that I've been in love as such/although I liked a few folk pretty well/Love must be vaster than my smiles or touch/for brave men died and empires rose and fell/for love, girls follow boys to foreign lands/and men have followed women into hell."

But Mirror Mirror is an album of many moods, so don't get too comfortable. "It's Just Me & Eve," also penned by Gaiman, is a cunning twist of dialogue and wordplay set in Eden. Gaiman's "Butterfly Road (The Faust Song)" was first recorded by Lorraine with Folk Underground on Buried Things; this new version is equally fun. "Personal Thing" (yes, by Gaiman; they do work with the man, after all -- and how cool is that?) is hauntingly romantic. Lorraine adds joyfully macabre music to Gaiman's lyrics for "Postmortem on Our Love," which is exactly what it sounds like it should be, with a title like that.

A poem by Jane Yolen, "Song of the Caileach Bheur," is given musical expression by son Adam Stemple, while Scott Mulligan lends his voice to the project. Things take an even more sensual turn with Tom Waits' "Tango Till They're Sore." "Let the Rest of the World Go By" is presented in a dreamy, waltz-like mode that stretches through time. "Marilyn," by Dan Burn, posits the changes in Marilyn Monroe's life if she'd married Henry Miller, gone to Paris and had a more fulfilling sex life.

Malena shows she can write, as well as sing and vamp, with "Fairyland," a delightfully serene a cappella lullaby.

The ladies also have their fun with a few traditional licks. "The Fox" is a frantic piece in which the wily prey leads hounds and hunter on a merry chase -- on the surface, at least. "Isabel" is a regal snapshot of Scottish history. Irish pub favorite "I'll Tell Me Ma," with Lojo Russo, channels the Indigo Girls with surprising results.

And damn it, it's over all too soon. While I lean over and hit the "repeat" button, you follow the link below, visit Lorraine a' Malena's website and give their music a try. You'll be glad you did -- and besides, if you don't, they just might hunt you down some night as you sleep and make you regret it ... slowly.

by Tom Knapp
14 January 2006

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