Flowers for Your Heart
Elisa Thorn, harp and vibraphone; Justin Decries, drums, James Meger, bass. Self-released, 2019.
Elisa Thorn tells us that her two artistic objectives are to “create music that is both abstract and accessible” and to “lead a band with harp in a way that does not compromise sensitivity with its boldness, or aesthetic beauty with it’s curiosity.” Her second album in the Hue series, Flowers for Your Heart, presses all those buttons.
Perhaps learning from her first foray, this time she’s less rebellious, showing a maturity and acceptance that the harp can still be ethereal, lovely, even feminine while maintaining an edginess that can’t be pigeon-holed. This is especially evident in Brother where all of her skills as a rock, indie, and even classical musician meld together. Joined by the responsive, yet unafraid-to-lead drummer Justin Devries and bassist James Meger’s grooving grit and natural improvisatory style, this album takes us into new worlds without us even being aware. This is most effectively done in Mountains, which engenders a feeling of a journey well worth taking.
A bit of a bonus is Magnolia with Laura Swankey’s husky and savory mezzo joining the trio, starting with words that soon evolve into pure golden sound.
A Quiet Uniqueness
Rachel Clemente, harp. Self-released, 2018.
Always taking my breath away is New England-based lever harpist Rachel Clemente, her unrestrained joy conspicuous in every note she plays, as if a gift given freely. In A Quiet Uniqueness, Clemente offers up a scintillating collection of new works in the traditional Celtic style guaranteed to sweep away the blues. Clemente’s natural buoyancy is demonstrated at the outset with Cavers of Kirkcudbright by Mike Vass, a bright light on the Scottish music scene. In the original tune Countryside Quiet, Clemente invites fiddlers Chloe Bryce and Madeleine Stewart to provide a jaunty accompaniment, finally breaking out into surprise vocals like a sun shower. Exceptionally rendered is Brian Finnegan’s Morna for two harps, Becky Hill as if a twin sister in their ensemble. The short album ends with Eyler Coates’ lovely work of fusion, The Old Bard of Stilligarry, written for the Scottish Harp Society, wraps up the CD with a bow. •