Laura Cortese,
Blow the Candle Out
(independent, 2007)

Blow the Candle Out solidifies Laura Cortese's position as a singer who also fiddles, discarding much of her earlier focus of her debut album Hush and providing only a single instrumental track. It's a shame in my book; for all that she's a fine, folksy singer, she should give her fiddle a bit more time in the sun.

Taken at face value, however, listeners should be pleased by her vocal acumen. Cortese has a pleasant tone with shades of slyness that make you wonder sometimes what she's thinking when she sings. Her ability to play the fiddle while singing is impressive and, although the instrument is kept to a supporting role here, she demonstrates plenty of skill there as well.

Even so, the album is disappointingly short. With only seven tracks, it clocks in at a mere 26:19; the first time I listened, I was surprised to hear it roll back to track one, the title track, so quickly.

"Blow the Candle Out" is a Cortese original song, one of three songs she wrote ("Morning Comes Around") or co-wrote ("Jack Orion," with Zack Hickman) on this album. Also included are Josh Ritter's "Blue Jays," the traditional night-visiting song "I Must Away Love," a reel and slide set titled "Mulqueen's" and "Break Away," a pop hit written by Avril Lavigne for Kelly Clarkson.

Besides her vocals and fiddle, the live performances captured here (in British Columbia, Vancouver and Cambridge, Mass.) feature Neil Cleary on harmony vocals, guitar and drums, and Emma Beaton on cello.

Cortese -- born in California, settled in Massachusetts and trained at Berklee College of Music -- is a gifted musician of mixed Irish-Italian ancestry. While I hope her fiddle plays a greater role in future recordings, I certainly look forward to hearing her next excursion.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

28 May 2011

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