Anita Best & |
The Colour of Amber
To appreciate the intricacy and quality of the musical tapestry that's been woven into The Colour of Amber, it helps to know something about the singers and their heritage. The CD is a collaborative effort by two of Newfoundland's finest female vocalists: Pamela Morgan and Anita Best. Each in her own way has helped shape the course of Newfoundland's musical scene: Morgan as the lead singer, guitarist and arranger for the groundbreaking Celtic group Figgy Duff, and Best as an award-winning storyteller, archivist and singer.
The songs on The Colour of Amber are grounded in and celebrate the culture of the 16th-century Europeans who arrived from southwest England, southeast Ireland and France to make their livings fishing for cod. The songs they brought with them were mostly shanties and ballads that told of their day-to-day struggles and concerns. It is deceptively simple music, the melody carried by a single voice and one instrument, while a second voice weaves harmonies in and out to give a poignant, haunting quality to the songs. This is entirely appropriate given the subject matter -- lives and loves lost at sea, the yearnings of lovers, the loneliness of separation and the uncertainty of war.
Simple melodies, however, do not mean simple renditions. This is where the cumulative experience of two women whose lives have literally been steeped in the music they sing pays off. Morgan's voice, a deep, rich alto, pours life into the lyrics so that you hear the weary resignation of a husband leaving for war ("The Lowlands of Holland"), the frustrations of two sisters who have fallen in love with the same man ("The Two Sisters") and the heavy heartache of a wife whose husband was lost at sea ("Lowlands Low").
Accompanying Morgan is Best's precise and warm soprano. With consummate ease she dips in and out of the melody then ranges alongside in half-step harmonics that lend depth and resonance to the lines. Together they've created a collection of songs that honors the past while bringing their musical heritage to vibrant life for the modern listener. Small wonder The Colour of Amber weighed in as one of the year's best when it was released, and continues to win accolades whenever and wherever it's played.