Thursday, November 25, 2010

Clare Burson -- Silver and Ash

Silver and Ash
Rounder Records

(This review is from the November 29, 2010 issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.)

Clare Burson addresses her grandmother in “The Only Way,” the first of 10 original songs on Silver and Ash. “Someone said you left there just in time,” she sings. It was, quite literally, just in time when Burson’s grandmother escaped Nazi Germany for the United States on the morning of Kristallnacht in 1938.

With a grant from Six Points Fellowship, an organization that supports artists exploring Jewish themes in their work, the New York-based singer-songwriter wrote these folk-like songs by imagining her grandmother’s life in Germany during the trying years preceding the Holocaust.

Most of the songs are impressionistic with few explicit references. It’s almost like each song offers an interpretation of a faded photograph (in fact, there are several faded photos included in the CD booklet). Images of a small baby pervade one song while another offers sketches of people in – seemingly sudden – transit. In “Everything’s Gone,” Burson remembers her great-grandparents – soon to be lost in the Holocaust – through the eyes of her grandmother about to “take the last train from the last train station.”

Burson spent time in Europe researching these songs and addresses her grandmother again in “Magpies,” the album’s poignant finale, as if it’s a letter from Germany. “Sometimes I think of how life must have been for you here, what life could have been for you here.”

--Mike Regenstreif

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