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Saturday, January 7, 2012

WWW of Spin Turlock #32: A Few Words about Miss Christine Leakey's Modern Folk Exotica

See, I received a CD copy of Christine Leakey's new collection of songs, "Tapping Trees in A Trinket Box of Treasures".
And it's rare for me these days to receive anything in the mail. When I moved to Alberta two years ago, I deliberately cut myself off of mailing lists, social media lists, gig boards, i.e any ties to my former life. Which is not to say I stopped listening to music..I just stopped being part of the process.
Back in the day, the early 90's to be exact, I knew Ms Leakey from her garage-rock group, The Double Feature Creatures. I covered their antics in the pages of the Hamilton Spectator. During the final broadcast seasons of my radio show at CFMU-FM, she was a semi-regular on my show, I heard early versions of some of the tracks.

Nothing prepared me for this, though. Musically, this is a long way from garage, rock, or any current pop sound out there. There's a number of source thread materials running through here, all of which sound based somewhere between the West Coast, The Thousand Islands, & Aldebaran.

Mainly,though, I hear essentialist folk music, the kind of which is rarely programmed at folk festivals these days. (Which also neatly explains why I avoid said festivals.) More's the pity, because I also hear lounge, real &  faux ethnic musics, torch & just a touch of hippie, the latter in it's most idealistic, pleasant, and panty-less guise. I call it modern day exotica, a fleshier version of what such retro-essentialists as The Shangs do.

The choice of instrumentation re-inforces my genre tag: an authentic Chamberlin proto-synth turns up on a regular basis, as do the kalimba, & the kanun, & - note to Byron Coley - a lot of Bansuri flute bandied about here.At some point, I must give a shout out to the jay-uzz inflected drumming & exotique percussion work of the Great Bob Scott, who helps the songs scoot along quite nicely.

Track by track, it breaks down like this:

The Marching Song is exactly that: film music for an off-beat march of pink elephants. The instrumentation here is tape loop derived.

follows, and it is the best, most fully realized track on the CD. Leakey's voice runs through several octaves to great effect: from deep, throaty swells to high-end skylark trills. The song structure has the most development of anything on the disc, with a descending bridge pattern to offset the folk-cha verses. Harp string,alto sax and other non-rote samples are swirled about, and everybody goes home with flowers in their hair. Very nice. Is it ok to reference Minnie Ripperton AND Don Glen Vliet in the same song review? Sure.

Here I Stand is a modern torch ballad, with a simpler structure designed to hypnotize prospective listeners into her lair. Again, non-rote instrumentation and Leakey's alternately breathy and deep vocals give it the feel of something you'd find played at the Bachelor Den At The End of the Universe. or maybe in the unreleased soundtracks of David Lynch's sole stab at TV, Twin Peaks.

Be You is a folk derived meditative piece. Like a lot of Leakey's pieces. it's a template for her own brand of musical impressionism. The few, simple structural strokes, are frames to showcase the breathing arrangements and textures.

Tipsy is another of those miniature instrumentals, resplendent with the kind of sound collages suggested by the title.

The Man With The Golden Heart is a folk lament/celebration of Leakey's late uncle, John. Simple, direct, and completely unaffected.

Miss Betty Grable is a hypno-folk drone, kind of like the Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties, but with a torch delivery. The lyrics suggest a crime story: Colonel Mustard, in the drawing room, with a lead pipe. Dave Byers would get jealous if he heard this!

Shine My Tarnished Sheen sounds dreamy, wildly romantic and has unusual chord voicings. You would have to be a Nathaniel, someone with absolutely no guile to sing lines like "the Sun shines within my heart, so let me dance upon the meadow floor", and get away with it.

Lullabies & Apple Pies has some interesting twists and turns in the structure & makes the vital connection between food and romance. I like the way Leakey goes "mmmmmmm". One of my fave tracks on the disc

The Day My Flower Died sounds as it's spelled , with the help of a vintage Arp2600 synth. They really DON'T write things like this anymore
Tap Dancers & Gloom Chime are the two tracks on the disc that didn't do anything for me, possibly because the structures just weren't substantial enough to support the impressionist impulses behind them...even with Great Bob Scott hoofing it on the former! The one Francophone cover that follows it on the disc, Quand Tu Dors, however is essential. Claudine Longet need never perform again: there's no need for her anymore. Trinket, another winsome instrumental, rounds out the CD.

Overall, it's pretty good . I'd give it 3 stars *** and points for attractive and thoughtful packaging. The alluring illustration below has the contact deets:

I had a rare weekend off , and spent it w/Shirley. We watched - and enjoyed - such recent Hollywood escapist film fare as Rise of the Planet of The Apes & Cowboys & Aliens. And speaking of old radio regulars: Kelly Grrl was in town & visited us in Grande Prairie.

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