"The album has an almost through-composed quality, as though each song was written in succession."
Through the Night
March to May: Elizabeth Wesche, harp; Darren Guyaz guitar/piano. Northbound Records, 2017.
It all started on the beach—a bonfire, crashing waves, and the sublime vastness of a particularly remote stretch of the Pacific Northwest—when two Seattle musicians realized they had chemistry between them, a kind of magic frisson to make beautiful music together.
At least that’s how Celtic harpist Elizabeth (Beth) Wesche and guitarist/pianist Darren Guyaz of March to May tell it. The rest, as they say, is history. The singer-songwriter team has won accolades for their folk-tinged, hard-to-classify ballads anchored in the rhythmic luminosity of acoustic plucked instruments on a bed of nearly ambient amplified instruments—the excellent Eric Padget, trumpet; Benjamin Shield, violin; Tracy Hagen, cello; and Birch Pereira and Matthew Weiner, bass and the soft, forward marching drumming of percussionist, David Bush. The album has an almost through-composed quality, as though each song was written in succession.
The first tune, “Madeleine,” introduces us right away to the dusky sound world of harp and guitar in duet, trading melody, rhythm, and timbre and weaving a labyrinthine mosaic of color. Darren’s voice is a honeyed caramel with just the touch of sizzle, and when he’s joined by Beth, the two are in perfect rapport.
Darren’s choice to use the simplicity of piano to accompany Beth’s plaintive, velvety soprano floating above in “If I Told You Could Stay” is a touch of genius, the classical sound grounding the song in its roots all the way back to Schubert. “She” leaves me breathless, the two trading verses seemingly far apart aurally and spiritually, though when the two soprano voices sing in harmony on the chorus, it’s pure bliss. Is it a double dose of Beth or Darren in falsetto? Not knowing is what makes it so delicious.
Beth opens their cover of “9 Crimes” with a steady ostinato, like the wheels spinning in an unsettled mind. “Give my gun away when it’s loaded. If you don’t shoot it, how am I supposed to hold it. Is that alright with you?” Chilling words that seem to spin themselves back to the very beginning, “It’s the wrong time and wrong place to be thinking of you.”
The title track “Through the Night” is Seattle in the fall. Misty, chill, dark by 4 p.m. A coffeehouse beckons just for the company with a side of something warm to drink. But there’s joy within the anguish of March to May’s choruses; like Liebeslied, you can taste the bittersweet.
A shadowy luminescence pervades the purely instrumental “Remembrance.” Maybe they’re asking us to remember that so much in life can’t be put into words. Music, therefore, says it for us.