CARLA FUCHS – Songbird

Talking Elephant 2023

With no need for a wing and a prayer, German debutante lets Sandy Denny’s verses leave the page and soar to celestial heights.

CARLA FUCHS –
Songbird

Sandy Denny’s notebooks are a legacy too dear to many, and even the thought of tainting her poetry’s preciousness by giving it a tune is so close to sacrilege that most artists wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, and one would need dedicated intrepidity and a special blessing to take up such a daunting endeavor when asked, or tasked, by Georgia Lucas, the great late lady’s daughter. Having left this world in 1978, at 31 years of age, Sandy left a cache of melodic treasures which still influence young musicians, including vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Carla Fuchs. She used to perform gems from Denny’s repertoire alongside those of Laura Nyro, as well as original numbers, of course, and this was what convinced the legendary singer-songwriter’s estate of the German chanteuse‚Äôs ability to do justice to Sandy’s unfinished works.

The trust put in Frl Fuchs’ talents may be measured not only by the absence of Denny’s name on this album’s front cover but also by the inclusion of Carla’s own tender titular serenade in its context – seamlessly placed into the pieces’ delicate flow and fitting their pattern perfectly – yet the greatest favor she does to the sorely missed FAIRPORTS and FOTHERINGAY front woman is that she’s not trying to emulate, let alone imitate, Sandy’s manner, although sometimes she sounds eerily close to her heroine’s tones. Following the advice stored in the refrain of the vigorously elegant “If You Are Free” – “Don’t stay at home: get up, get out and walk” – as a guiding light away from a pandemic-imposed routines, Fuchs infuses opener “Sixpence” with gorgeous balladry, often bolstering her singing by solemn piano and spicing her vocals with inspired six-string lace; and if Carla’s respect for the fallen star makes her stick to mostly slow tempos, the results are as life-affirming as the delicate insistence of the “I just ain’t gonna die” line. And while “Go West” threads pedal steel through acoustic strum to marry English hope to Appalachian reverie, “Simply Falls Apart” unhurriedly accumulates domestic drama to drown lyrical sorrow in an almost funereal twang and ground the worry in an organ purr and double-tracked voice – all delivered by Fuchs.

And then, there’s the vaudevillian folk of “Charm & Patience” to sculpt an image of early rapture which seems so difficult to capture – yet is captured with ease and warm brilliance, whereas the gentle lullaby “Georgia” – enhanced with Carla’s clarinet and celesta – is bound to melt the hardest of hearts, should it inhabit the listener’s chest, before the softly electrified “Half Way Home” starts to gracefully flutter towards the fields of traditional song. However, the majestic “Winter Elms” can chill anyone to the bone only to offer to sit by the magnificent flame raging deep in this number’s core until “Winning Of The Game” soothes the passion to bring on the album’s finale that Ms. Lucas spoken monologue, an extension of her mother’s handwritten words in the booklet, ought to lend to eternity.

This album is exquisite: it had to be born and it will be cherished by many. Tributes can’t get better than this.

*****

September 14, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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