Music

CD Shorts: Claudia Schmidt

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Whirled Order

(Red House)

 

The youth of every generation tend to believe that what’s hot is “new.” Is Claudia Schmidt’s new album folk music, jazz, or spoken word? Yes. But Schmidt isn’t trying to be cool—she just is. She’s been doing this sort of thing since long before today’s young whipperhipsters were even born.

Call New Whirled Order a mature album whose antecedents are 1950s modal jazz, Beat poetry and the Folk Revival’s unleashing of singer/songwriters and its recovery of forgotten instruments. Schmidt’s opening track, “Already,” highlights how to integrate dulcimer, accordion (courtesy of Valley accordionist Chris Haynes), percussion, guitar and scale-smashing vocals.

Schmidt’s folk material tends toward poignant themes—“Sea of Forgiveness” features a lone oboe adding wistful notes to the mix, and “Jane’s Gone” is a lilt dedicated to her recently deceased mother. But the overall tone is joyful. “Coward in the Face of Love” is serious, but the melody is bouncy, the hooks memorable, and Schmidt’s vocals evocative of Motown.

For comic relief, there’s “Strong Woman Has a Bad Day Polka,” and this time the oboe sounds like it swallowed a piccolo. Schmidt exercises her jazz muse on “Dawn Star,” with poetic lyrics and styling evocative of the soulful aloofness of Chet Baker. By contrast, “Sometime Ago” is piano-based cool jazz with scat interludes—more in the Helen Morrill tradition with some Ella Fitzgerald-like breakouts. Then there is pure poetry—her paean to the unspoken in “Longing,” bookended by dulcimer/guitar instrumentation and Schmidt’s angelic warbles.

What a perfect title—New Whirled Order draws upon musical ideas so old they’re new again.

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