Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lucy Kaplansky coming to Montreal, March 4

One of the concerts I’ve most been looking forward to this season is the return to Montreal of the superb New York-based singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky.

I remember being quite impressed hearing her do a song or two in New York City – more than 30 years ago – when she was half of Simon & Kaplansky, a duo with Elliot Simon. She later had a duo with Shawn Colvin before leaving the music business to get her PhD and establish a practice as a clinical psychologist.

Lucy returned to music making in the early-1990s and her first album was released in 1994 – I first played it on Folk Roots/Folk Branches on December 1, 1994. That album and all of her subsequent releases – including the Cry Cry Cry collaboration with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell – were staples of Folk Roots/Folk Branches programming until the show ended in 2007. Lucy was a guest on the show in 1999 in a conversation we recorded that summer at the Ottawa Folk Festival.

I’ve loved the three concerts that I’ve seen Lucy do over the years and anticipate a great evening on Friday, March 4, 8:00 pm, at La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent). Contact Hello Darlin’ Productions at 514-524-9224 for information or ticket reservations.

Lucy’s most recent album is Red Horse, a collaboration with Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka. My review is here.

Below are my reviews of her albums Over the Hills (Montreal Gazette, April 12, 2007) and Every Single Day (Sing Out! magazine, Spring 2002).

--Mike Regenstreif

Over the Hills
Red House

Themes of familial joys and grief, and continuity of the generations, runs through the finely-crafted and movingly delivered original songs that Lucy Kaplansky offers on her sixth album. She sings about the joys of raising an inquisitive young daughter in "Manhattan Moon" and says goodbye to her dying father in "Today’s the Day." "The Gift" is a poignant tribute to both her grandfather and father as she acknowledges the gift of music they passed down to her. In addition to her own songs, Kaplansky also puts her distinctive stamp on such numbers as "Someday Soon," Ian Tyson’s classic about a young girl in love with a rodeo cowboy, and "Ring of Fire," a hit June Carter wrote for future husband Johnny Cash. ****

--Mike Regenstreif

Every Single Day
Red House

On her fourth solo album, Lucy Kaplansky brings her considerable skills to bear on a set of songs that examine human relationships and frailties with the combined skills of a singer and songwriter (her songs are collaborations with her husband, Richard Litvin) who is informed with the insights of a highly trained psychologist (Kaplansky has a PhD in psychology and had a clinical practice in New York City for some years before returning to music on a full time basis). So when she sings about an egocentric singer in “Every Single Day” or the lonely person in the midst of the big city in “Nowhere” or the illicit lovers in “Guilty As Sin,” there is much deeper analysis than one often encounters in contemporary songs.

The most moving song on the album is “Song For Molly,” a beautiful, quiet piece in which Kaplansky recalls the relationship that she had at 13 with her institutionalized grandmother in the grips of Alzheimer’s or some other memory-robbing disease.

In addition to her original material, Kaplansky also turns in strong versions of songs drawn from other writers.
My favorite of her covers is Julie Miller’s “Broken Things,” in which the broken-hearted protagonist finds that its never too late to find love again. Her version of the Louvin Brothers’ “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night,” shows Kaplansky’s great affinity for traditional country.

Most of these songs have a layered, produced sound that’s closer to pop music than contemporary folk usually gets, but Kaplansky never lets the arrangements overtake either the songs or her voice.

--Mike Regenstreif

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