When my father died in January 2014, I did little more than write about him for the first eight months. Poems, snatches of prose, abandoned plays, journal entries, class assignments – I parried with his death on notebook pages and computer screens trying to make some sense of how to move on with an enormous hole in my life. Anne Lindsay’s album, Soloworks, springs from that same need. This isn’t a collection of funeral dirges, paint-by-numbers musical clichés, and self-pitying reflections on loss. Instead, her violin and nyckelharpa create lush melodies that, in tandem with her voice, waft through your consciousness.
Catharsis, joyful or not, is artistically tricky. Delivering songs with artistic integrity and simple entertainment appeal is a deceptively easy task. Their overwhelming need to play and emote can lapse into self-indulgent navel gazing. When well handled, a cathartic thrust can give any artistic work intensity it might otherwise lack. If focus wavers, however, it can sound very samey.
Soloworks struggles intermittently with this. The lyrical “Seas Will Rise” is an ideal opener for this album and sets a clear tone for the remaining songs, but the first few following it rarely vary from the initial template. “Pilgrimage to Pushkar” and “Roro/Sweden Seven” hides, in a sense, behind their exoticness to conceal a general lack of “payoff”. There’s no one a-ha moment in those songs when the musical elements raise you to another level. They meander along at the same level without ever widening the eyes or raising the pulse.
“Tour En L’Air”, however, has a markedly different result. Lindsay plays this classical instrumental with deep, unidentifiable feeling. The lower registers hum while higher, almost vocal, registers sing from Lindsay’s violin and her playing seamlessly shifts from mood to mood with such finesse. “Dogs in the Hollow” has a surprisingly strong country music influence nestled in her violin and Lindsay plays with cinematic verve, but despite her energy, some sections drag despite the song’s overall brevity.
“The Three Bears” is more problematic. Lindsay shows the same cinematic style that appears on all of these songs, but songs like this perhaps lacking in the variation heard on the album’s stronger material demand additional musical flavor that her violin alone couldn’t provide. “Acacia Blossoms As Snow In Spring” is, arguably, the album’s best song and a wonderful travelogue of emotion. Lindsay’s multi-faceted skill carries the listener through a wide palette of musical mood and color. The album’s closer, “Amazing Grace”, reframes this standard as a piano ballad realized by Lindsay’s naked vocal and the tasteful playing as counterpoint.
In the end, even if Lindsay lost no one, perfection isn’t the point. Soloworks is about recording a moment, a time, in someone’s life and, suspecting it resonates with many others out there, pushing it out there for others to share. I can evaluate those aforementioned moments when catharsis blurs or loses focus, but I find no fault.
Purchase Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/soloworks/id949900885