Sunday, 29 June 2008

CD Review - Magda Piskorczyk

Blues Travelling

Magda Live

By M.D. Spenser

Nouveau Blueswoman Magda Piskorczyk is on the right track, as these two innovative CDs illustrate.

She chooses from a wonderfully eclectic array of sources – from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Jacques Brel – and has the courage to use new instrumentation.

The better of the two CDs is “Blues Travelling,” the studio set. It’s a spare affair. Some songs have only two musicians: Piskorczyk on acoustic guitar, often playing more single notes than chords, with either an electric fiddle or sax noodling over the top. Sometimes, light percussion is added.

On Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Help Me’, Piskorczyk opens with a standard blues progression, single notes on the bass string. The fiddle joins in, at first pizzicato – plucked rather than bowed – before soaring over the bass like a bird over a valley. It’s new yet deeply traditional.

‘Darkness On The Delta’, is sparse, old-timey acoustic blues, relaxed and melodic. During a break, whistling over the thump of the double bass creates a delightful mix of textures.

“Magda Live”, though, is weighed down by audience participation and Magda’s screams. It’s more fully instrumented – two guitars, sax, drums and double bass.

There are successes: a fine cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Crossroads’, punctuated by unusual and intricate rhythms; and Brel’s ‘Hearts’, a smoky lament, jazzily arranged.

But there are a few duds, as well. ‘Fever’ is inexplicably stripped of its bass line, one of the best in pop music, the spine of the song.

And Piskorczyk, a Pole, doesn’t always emphasise the right word in English phrases. Also, both albums, with songs counts in the upper teens, smack a bit of self-indulgence.

Despite these failings, Piskorczyk has guts, taste, an adventuresome spirit and a deep sense of the Blues. One gets the feeling of the feeling of a significant talent waiting to fully refine itself.

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