Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mason Daring and Jeanie Stahl – Forty

Daring Records

“What a surprise, that after a few decades, we would record another album,” write Mason Daring and Jeanie Stahl in the liner notes to Forty, an album that celebrates the four decades since they first worked together as a duo – and their first new recordings as a duo in well over three decades,

And how nice it is to hear this new music from old friends. Back in the late-1970s, I operated an independent booking agency for a few years and Mason and Jeanie were among the artists I worked with. They were among the top performers in the bustling New England folk scene back then and I started working with them on the strength of a great LP called Sweet Melodies in the Night that included several classics like Mason’s “Marblehead Morning,” Jeanie’s beautiful title song and definitive interpretations of songs by Bill Staines and Robin Batteau. During the time I worked with them they recorded a second great LP called Heartbreak. Years later, many of the songs from those LPs were collected on a CD called The Early Years, and now, decades after that, we have Forty.

By the time I wound down my agency, Mason was heavily into scoring films – notably for director John Sayles – and Jeanie went on to record several solo albums. While both have pursued other primary interests over the past three decades-plus, they have continued to get together to perform on occasion.

All this time later, Mason and Jeanie still sound great together on Forty’s 10 songs – half of them originals, half of them classics drawn from contemporary folk music, country, western swing and the Great American Songbook. Jeanie’s voice remains exquisite while Mason’s glides effortlessly on pieces like Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”

There’s a timelessness to the songs on the album and originals like Mason’s “Too Much” and Jeanie’s “The Ring” stand tall next to the classics.

And while Forty is a delightful listen from start to finish, I’ll pick out a few of my very favorite tracks.

“The Ring,” is a lovely song which uses the metaphor of a 40-year-old ring in a jewel box for the seemingly quick passage of time that those of us of a certain age can now look back on. It also captures that passage of time celebrated with this album.

“It’s Funny,” written and sung by Mason, is a cool, love comes-love goes tune that would have been at home on a Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett LP, while their versions of “San Antonio Rose” and Chattanooga Choo Choo,” – both of which I’m sure I remember Mason and Jeanie playing live back in the day – are full of playful swing.

Perhaps my favorite track, though, is Jeanie’s sublime interpretation of “Across the Great Divide,” a beautiful song written by my late friend Kate Wolf. Perfection.

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--Mike Regenstreif

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