Laura Siersema | Talon of the Blackwater

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Talon of the Blackwater

by Laura Siersema

Dreamy alt-pop with serene, ethereal vocals and cutting edge lyrics of a poet.
Genre: New Age: Neo-Classical
Release Date: 

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1. Mother Mary Rose
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2. Talon of the Blackwater and Graces
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3. Go Children Slow
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4. Wade in the Water
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5. I Was Once a Sailor
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6. This Train
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7. Jumping Off the Big Board
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8. My Eye This Flower in Julep Runs
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9. Who Will Pass This On
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10. All My Trials
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11. Along the Fenway
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
PROGRESSION: THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF PROGRESSIVE MUSIC

LAURA SIERSEMA
"Talon of the Blackwater"

Style: Jazz/Folk/Art-Rock/New Age

Inspired by church singers and jazz greats like guitarist Pat Metheny, Laura Siersema brings the power of her crystalline voice and compositional skills to bear on her third release. Fluid, poetic vocals ride high in the mix. The performances are mainly the product of Siersema and Jay Hovnanian (producer/engineer/synthesizers), but are augmented by T Lavitz (Dixie Dregs) and other skilled players.

The understated accompaniments are at times brilliant. Siersema takes the traditional spiritual “Wade in the Water” and makes it her own with a ghostly arrangement reminiscent of Daniel Lanios's work. “My Eye This Flower in Julep Runs” brings to mind Mahavishnu Orchestra's “Smile of the Beyond” vocal section, an indication of the timbre and clarity of Siersema's voice and the album in general. The excellent 14-minute closer “Along the Fenway” features cellist Eugene Friesen (Paul Winter Consort) and is strikingly beautiful.

The pace of these compositions is slow and deliberate, and tunes like “Who Will Pass this On veer toward lounge music. But the stream-of-consciousness quality of Siersema's lyrics trumps this album's minor shortcomings.
by Rick Tvedt



LiveWire: Laura Siersema's "Talon of the Blackwater"
by The Republican Entertainment Desk
Thursday April 02, 2009, 9:04 AM

By Donnie Moorhouse

When you listen to Laura Siersema's new release "Talon of the Blackwater," it is almost impossible to imagine that this talented local songwriter once felt uncomfortable with her own voice.

"I have always felt particularly vulnerable about singing, that continues to this day," said Siersema. "It was many years of studying voice, auditioning, before I ever felt a sense of freedom and connectedness to my own voice."

While the Greenfield resident's voice gives "Talon of the Blackwater," its beauty, her writing is what gives it depth.

"It's (the record) everything I can say about the journey, condensed," she said. "With each of the albums, it was my life as I knew it up to that point."

At first glance, the talent is obvious but it just may be Siersema's work ethic that makes her stand out in a crowded folk field.

"I worked intensely for a period of 13 months on this material alone," she said. "I did not go into studio along the way. I wrote the majority of it first, then went to record it. The creative process was much more concentrated an experience, and the tools with which I worked were becoming increasingly focused and sharp."

Siersema is not unaccustomed to hearing comparisons to Joni Mitchell when people are first introduced to her art.

"I've heard that from a number of different people," she said. "'Hejira' is my favorite album ever and her adaptation of 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' is one of my favorite songs. Though I did not come to know her work until later, I consider her one of my heroines. She is a poet too. The volume of her work is just amazing."

Siersema is working on putting together her performing schedule and has lined up an afternoon showcase at Borders Books and Music in Keene, NH on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Her full schedule, along with the brilliant "Talon of the Blackwater," is available at laurasiersema.com.


Laura Siersema's Talon of the Blackwater

Valley Advocate
February 13, 2009
By Ryan Duffy

Currently based out of Greenfield, singer/songwriter Laura Siersema offers her third album. According to her biography, she loved music as a child, attempted nursing school and dropped out, and fell back into music—not exactly the worst move, in her case. Siersema clearly has a lot to offer with her sonorous singing and her agile playing.

Many of the songs on this CD are not far removed from some of Kate Bush’s more subdued ‘80s output, which means flowing, ethereal vocals, murky, fretless bass, jazz piano, subtle synthesizers, some strings, drums and even bouncing marimba on one track. The record makes good use of silence and space at times, creating a fairly minimalist setting, circling and entrancing rather than forcing its way in.

Lyrically, the album uses cryptic poetry to evoke moods, rather than providing the listeners with cheap, cut-and-dried imagery. I liked this bit from “Along the Fenway,” the 13-minute closer:

I saw the future in somebody’s hand

They’re gonna steal a wallet

What does it matter when you’re in-between

the black sheep and the chosen one?

Or how about, from the title track:

Hurling shotgun shells at a wedding party

brother half-cocked at the pulpit

nausea always skimming just beneath

Not sure exactly what she’s alluding to, but anyone who can wield strong lyrical ability while avoiding pretension and tired clichés scores points with me.

Lead track “Mother Mary Rose” slowly floats along, buoyed by watery and delicate guitar work, but the vocals cut through the mix, creating a disembodied ambience. Siersema’s take on the traditional tune “Wade in the Water” is carried by clomping congas and is lit up like a jazzy old torch song.
Fans of Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and even Leonard Cohen, albeit strictly on a lyrical basis, might feel at home with Siersema.


MOTHER MARY ROSE

Mother Mary Rose
drinking from a fountain I feel the rain
coming down like life
or the remnants of a hurricane
will you break me up?
will you hold me down?

Mother Mary Rose
well he shook his head and I wanted
to tell him it was alright
but we were on the ocean
it was breathing like a child
I held him in my arms
he was alone and so was I.

Why do shadows fall so slowly
hovering o'er this field of all who pass--

Mother Mary Rose
my sisters and I spent out summers this way
hardly noticed
slipping over the many mountains
slipping over the lush down of scooter
slipping, slipping away.

Vocal, Fluid Guitar Siersema Synthesizers Jay Hovnanian Brush Marcelo Woloski


TALON OF THE BLACKWATER AND GRACES

Somebody pulled the hair right out of my head
something so small
'bout a quarter-size
not me that's pointing a knife
admit that you're wrong not to matter--

Don't you remember anything
denting the car, the machete
stealing bread and meat under your jacket--
get afraid and lie
get afraid and twist things up
your riddle
underneath I go--


scraping up the sides
and dropping down--
talon of the blackwater and graces.

Hurling shotgun shells at a wedding party
brother half-cocked at the pulpit
nausea always skimming just beneath
what's cheated you
it's all coming up--
keep it down, keep it quiet
it's a tailspin
let's just get away--
scraping up the sides
and dropping down--
talon of the blackwater and graces.

So put me in your dress and step on my shoes
tell me how much you like them
take my picture, press it all over the house
tear this roof off my head
this throbbing in my heart--
keep it down, keep it quiet
it's a tailspin
let's just get away--
scraping up the sides
and dropping down--
talon of the blackwater and graces.

keep it down, keep it quiet
it's a tailspin
let's just get away--

Vocals, Fluid Guitar Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Synthesizer
T Lavitz Lead Guitar Nate Comp Frame Drums Nick Falk Congas Marcelo Woloski


GO CHILDREN SLOW

Go children slow
walk on the water what you become
those suits and guns they bring the massacre
down the tracks you ride
raising your hopes
under the gathering tree
under the gathering tree--


All the wooden horses, all that's sleeping in the yard
listen, can you hear me?
there's gonna be a big trial, gonna saw the people up singing,
all your questions
like heads are gonna fall--you're swimming now
as you lie awake at night
lie awake at night--

Fix upon the bell you took,
instrument you wore--

Go children slow
walk on the water what you become
those suits and guns they bring the massacre
down the tracks you ride
raising your hopes
under the gathering tree
under the gathering tree--

Vocal, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Synthesizers T Lavitz & Jay Hovnanian Percussion Nick Falk


WADE IN THE WATER

Wade in the water
wade in the water children
wade in the water
God's a gonna trouble the water

Jordan's river is chilly and cold
saw the bullet holes around you
chills the body but lifts the soul
there are no questions

Wade in the water
wade in the water children
wade in the water
God's a gonna trouble the water

If you get there before I do
wants to save Tibet but he would run you over
tell my sisters
that I hear them calling

Wade in the water
wade in the water children
wade in the water
God's a gonna trouble the water

Vocal, Electric Piano Siersema Keyboard & Bass Programming Jay Hovnanian Drums Bruce J. LeBlanc Organ T Lavitz Guitar Nate Comp Congas, Shakers, Tambourine Marcelo Woloski


I WAS ONCE A SAILOR

I was once a sailor
and I walked on water too.

Driving through this underground tunnel
got a nun on my back trying to give me strength and comfort
can't see anything but the blue tiles
just can't catch my breath
too many motors running here
this is my sorrow--

Blasted down by the hip in her pocket
like I was and you were too
leaving her skin some kind of orange glow
whatcha got on that smells so good,
hop in the van,
wanna go where it smells like sea--

I was once a sailor
and I walked on water too.

Parched in the sunshine
and dozing on the water
drifting through the afternoon
inside this heartache
I had a vision too--

I was once a sailor
and I walked on water too.


Vocals, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Drums Bruce J. LeBlanc Guitars Nate Comp Congas Marcelo Woloski


THIS TRAIN

Vocal, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Electric Piano T Lavitz
Hi-Hat Nick Falk Shakers Marcelo Woloski


JUMPING OFF THE BIG BOARD

I am one of many thousand faces at the doorway
you are too related to the climb
if you put your hand in mine
we're jumping off the big board--

Never mind what others may have
told you 'bout the distance
they were just too busy
driving their cars into the ground
if they stop to look around
they might just see what it's been costing them--

I am one I am one.

Looking for life, she thought she found her answer
dozing in the back seat
curls on his collar
arm hanging limp out the Cadillac
something held her back
"Why don't ya come on over this way?"
she said, "I like it better my way."

I am one I am one.

I am just beginning to know that I can sing
that I have power
over the voices telling me
"Why don't ya do this, why don't ya do that?"
Nothing wrong with me,
I just like it better my way
I like it better my way.

I am one I am one.

I am one of many thousand faces at the doorway
you are too related to the climb
if you put your hand in mine
we're jumping off the big board
jumping off the big board.

Vocal, Piano, Keyboard Marimba Siersema Synthesizers Jay Hovnanian



MY EYE THIS FLOWER IN JULEP RUNS

My eye this flower in julep runs
over salty seas I met my love,
he belonged to me--
what finer shores and better mornings
quicken on the breeze--
with parcels fine and critical
I'll tell you what I know
all I've carried washes down
water into stone--
once ankled in the spring of loons
your arms just cannot hold
a child of sorrow falling free--
My eye this flower in julep runs--

Vocal Siersema Synthesizer Siersema & Jay Hovnanian



WHO WILL PASS THIS ON

You and I are not unscathed
we seek the bones of our own making
whisper in the smell of autumn
who will pass this on--

We are one from the beginning
deeper than the oceans sworn to me
softer than a song--
I had always dreamed you'd be coming--
sweet as the morning--

I have seen the whole world
touched tomorrow in each September
listen to the voices rejoicing
there you'll find love--


I had always dreamed you'd be coming--
sweet as the morning air--
suspended like heaven
treasure always for me--

We are one from the beginning
deeper than the oceans sworn to me
softer than a song--
I had always dreamed you'd be coming--
sweet as the morning
crisp as the leaves falling down--

Vocal Siersema Piano T Lavitz Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Drums Nick Falk Shakers Marcelo Woloski


ALL MY TRIALS

Vocal, Piano Siersema Fretless Bass Michael Farquharson Drums Nick Falk
Organ T Lavitz Shakers Marcelo Woloski


ALONG THE FENWAY

Noisy boys in their uniforms
pushing through the turnstile
down under Comm Avenue
I saw the future in somebody's hand
they're gonna steal a wallet--
what does it matter when you're in-between
the black sheep and the chosen one?
the choirs all sing for you--
along the Fenway--

Beautiful my fellow, tart queen of the back bay
shaved his head looking for what he lost
there goes the preacher thinks Jesus told him
something I don't know--
listen the voices crying, saying mass
awaiting my conversion
I'll cross the sound for you--
along the Fenway--

Grabbed his daughter by the wrist and pulled her up the stairs
spit on the platform, kissed her face
who is the father descending as I pray
to look the other way--
all around the furrowed brows
on the outskirts of this famine
seek an answer
gotta tell all the children too--
along the Fenway--

Vocal, Piano Siersema Cellos Eugene Friesen Additional Vocal Alastair Moock

c2008 Laura Siersema


Produced by Jay Hovnanian
Mastered by Jeff Lipton, Peerless Mastering

Featuring:
Michael Farquharson (MCA artist/Juno nominee)
T Lavitz (Grammy nominee of the Dixie Dregs)
Eugene Friesen (Grammy winning Paul Winter Consort)
Nick Falk and Marcelo Woloski (Maeve Gilchrist Group) Alastair Moock
Bruce J. LeBlanc
Nate Comp (Josh Logan Band)

Design by Chris Needham, Boston
Photography Tanit Sakakini


Reviews


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Bruce Sesnovich

The long journey home
I cannot think of Talon of the Blackwater as a collection of songs, although of course it is that. But so is a movie a series of still frames, and a painting a series of brush strokes. The description may be accurate, but it misses the essence.

To me, Talon is the sound of a choir spilling out from a church and leaking across a twilit riverbank, a bonfire of mercy beckoning the homesick, and a conscious remembering of those who trod these lost paths long ago. It asks the question: "Which way home?" and then answers with another question: "What is home?"

"You walk, and walk, and find no home at all."

-Herman Hesse

It seems so mundane we take it for granted. But isn't home a mysterious thing? Some of us never find it. Others know home, but cannot account for it. I've been to many places and experienced friendlier faces, better food, better shopping, better transportation, and certainly better weather. But none of those places felt like home, not even for a moment. Why Boston? What invisible talons hold me -- hold us -- here by the banks of the black water?

Perhaps though, _Talon_ is not about home so much as the journey home. The characters who people Laura's songs are all heading somewhere. I think about the Berklee students, the Mass Ave panhandlers, the Fenway denizens. Are they heading to the T? To Starbucks? To an al fresco tryst? To vespers at the Arlington Street Church? Are they rowing home? Will they still be the same when they arrive?

"And at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out."

-Anne Sexton

Does home have a sound of its own? In _Talon_, I hear sound crossing the water, changing as it echoes on. I stand across the sound and feel changed by the echoes. As my ancestors once
did, I wade in the water. It is quiet now. I become an echo of the sound. For just a moment, I feel calm. I feel as though I may be heading home.