MiG Music 2022
Running from the high life, a minstrel who took Manhattan descends at Deutschland to take Saxony by storm.
Despite the respect of her peers and a steady following in Western Europe, this artist remains not only an enigma to most listeners of poetic rock which hailed from Greenwich Village in the late ’70s, let alone wide audience, but also the scene’s primarily unknown mover, and the Songwriter’s Exchange founder’s latter-day semi-retirement doesn’t help her seize fame. Still, there’s a strong allure in the concert tapes of the former Cornelia Street Cafe waitress who turned into chanteuse, and recordings such as the one preserved for posterity in Bremen in 1989, around the time she moved to the city, are able to find a new fanbase for Ms Mas, even though it will hardly tempt Carolyne to tour again. Perhaps, naming the live album after The Fabs’ cover that sprawls at the show’s end was not wise, yet the feeling of unity the preceding performances exude must justify the title.
Going through most of her previous albums – barring 1981’s “Modern Dreams” but compensating for the gap by the inclusion of more than a half songs from the then-recent “Action Pact” – Carolyne’s creating an invigorating on-stage environment in which opener “Hold On” sounds, in an oxymoron manner, like a groovy call to arms… or, rather a boogie-splashed call for arms to join, as the panoramic, if intimate, “Where One Meets Two” and the raging “Come Together” confirm further down the line. That’s why the jocular rockabilly of “You Bother Me” and “I’m Lucky” feels so natural, Mas clear voice comically serious when set against the twang and flurries of Richie Rebuth’s guitar and runs of Randy Watson’s piano, especially in the epic “Sittin’ In The Dark” where she’s gliding above the glacial, almost barebone ripples of rhythm, alternately restraining and intensifying her vocal assault before letting instrumentalists rule the game and then whipping up a quote from “On Broadway” to enhance it with infectious scat.
The songstress and her ensemble may masterfully build drama for “Thomas Dunson’s Revenge” to hit the listener in the face and infuse “Running From The High Life” with pop agenda, her commanding presence shaping up high-energy eddies of emotion and propelling the players’ momentum past climactic finale, into the anarchic buzz of “When You’re Near” and the solemn “When Love Is Right” that’s full of hope. For a contrast, “So Hard To Be True” demonstrates the lady’s hold on the classic blues idiom, while “Red Lights” has a tinseltown atmosphere attached to its heavy riff, and “Stillsane” catches everyone in its motorik whirlpool which Carolyne is swirling with a lot of melodic witchery until the acoustic ballad “He’s Everything I Want (But A Little Bit Less)” casts a different spell, revealing the artist’s vulnerable psyche. However, the rock ‘n’ roll “Samson And Delilah’s Beauty Shop” – penned for Mas by her friend Steve Forbert – kicks the mood back into a frolicking, rollicking mode, so the singer can strut her well-tuned stuff again, teasing those who don’t know her oeuvre to investigate what’s in there.
As an entry point to Carolyne Mas’ discography, “Let’s Come Together” is as perfect as it gets.