Squawk Radio

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Liz Strings It Out for You

“Appalachian Journey” is, like so many CDs I like best, hard to categorize. A mix of classical, folk and bluegrass, it’s mostly a jubilee of strings and the glorious music they create in the hands of masters. The trio of Yo-Yo Ma, Mark O’Conner and Edgar Meyer are joined by the likes of Allison Krauss and James Taylor for both original and traditional pieces that run the gamut from frivolously fun to intensely dramatic. And, wow, what magic they generate as a group.

The album is a follow-up to an earlier release from Ma, O’Conner and Meyer called “Appalachian Waltz,” which I bought after seeing the Louisville Ballet perform to a piece from that collection. As lovely as the dance was, I was far more captivated by the music, which, coupled with the dancing, actually moved me to tears in an auditorium full of people. That album, too, is marvelous, but I’ve found “Journey” to be even more so.

There are few vocals, but two renditions of Stephen Foster songs, James Taylor’s “Hard Times” and Allison Krauss’s “Slumber My Darling,” are heartbreakingly beautiful. Other selections include reels, waltzes and caprices that can instill in the listener both solemnity and celebration. I can’t imagine anyone listening to this (or “Waltz,” for that matter) and not being very emotionally moved. Even without vocals, the music speaks volumes.

When I listen to this CD, I feel like I’ve been transported back in time, either to the refined chambers of some country estate in England or Europe, or to a barn dance in early America. The music is just so pure, so fundamentally MUSIC, inspired by a time--or the product of a time--when there was no studio to mix things up and play around with sound and performance. It is simple music that is in no way simple. And it’s absolutely wonderful.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 11:59 AM