Little Windows,
Just Beyond Me
(Little Windows, 2006)

Every once in a great while magic happens when a new group is formed. Case in point: Julee Glaub and Mark Weems fit together like they've been playing and singing as one for years. They joined forces in 2005 when both realized their vocal tones had a unique harmonic blend and they shared a common passion for traditional music. Little Windows' debut CD of traditional Irish, Appalachian and old-time gospel songs is stunningly beautiful and one of the best recordings I've heard in years.

North Carolina native Glaub has been in the Irish music scene for years. She spent almost eight years living in Ireland learning ballads from traditional sean-nos (old style) singers. This allows her to sing with phrasing and ornamentation that is distinctly Irish. Alabama native Weems is a talented songwriter who has played Celtic, bluegrass, country and folk music, but his real passion is in the old-time tradition of Appalachian string band music. His talent and love of this music is evident in his singing and playing.

This album has a preponderance of Appalachian songs, but Irish influence is heard throughout. These similar musical styles blend together as effortlessly as Glaub and Weems. They are talented multi-instrumentalists but it's their stunning vocals and breathtaking, goosebump-inducing harmonies that set them and this disc apart from others. Their specialty is unaccompanied ballads such as the gut-wrenching "Motherless Child" and "Pretty Saro," and the 1800s hymn "Psalms of Victory." At times their voices sounded like one and I almost couldn't believe my ears.

Were my ears going haywire? Nope! The album was recorded live with Glaub and Weems singing together into one microphone -- she even had to stand on a phonebook to reach it. According to the liner notes they recorded this way "in order to best capture our live performances, to be real with ourselves and our audience, and to attain what we feel is our best vocal synchronicity." This disc was as close to a live performance as I've ever heard and was without the typical decreased sound quality of live-in-concert recordings. The sound was clear, crisp, vibrant and unusually intimate and intense.

Glaub is heard in the forefront on songs such as "Come Ye Sinners" and "Fathers Now Our Meeting is Over." She also sings lead on "Little Windows." Weems takes the lead on songs including "Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains" and "Wayfaring Stranger." He shows off his songwriting skills with "Loneliest One" -- a lovely lullaby based on a Friedrich Nietzsche poem that showcases his voice and piano playing as well. A few guest musicians lend their support including Carl Jones, Pete Sutherland, Kelly Weems (Mark's father) and Chuck Eller.

This is a vocal lover's dream come true. Gentle accompaniment with guitar, banjo, piano and fiddle was sometimes used but the music never overshadowed their voices. Audiophiles will really appreciate the sound ... like an old, traditional recording but without all the scratches and hisses. The disc comes in at almost an hour long and is a very highly recommended must-buy. (Yes, it really is that good!)

by Erika S. Rabideau
17 March 2007

Julee Glaub and Mark Weems, performing together as Little Windows, are based in North Carolina, and the primary instrument on offer on Just Beyond Me is the human voice.

"Pretty Saro" will captivate you immediately and make you wonder why groups ever need guitars, fiddles and the like. This is vocal harmony to die for and diction that allows us understand and believe the tale.

They bring us a selection of songs that never fails to please. In doing so, they unearth some gems such as Charlie Rich's "Feel Like Going Home." On this they almost make a liar of me regarding not needing instruments, as they introduce not only the traditional sounds but also a marvelous Hammond organ. Julee takes point position on "Motherless Child" in a rendition that will melt any heart not made of stone, while "Slips of Time" is a lovely poem that was written by Mark.

Have you ever made a mistake and the result was better than the plan? It appears that Mark did such a thing at a concert when he sang "Wayfaring Stranger" to the tune of "Fair & Tender Ladies." He liked it and now you can hear those words to a new tune.

This duo is steeped in tradition, with Julee living on an old plantation and having grown up on the great hymns of the American South. This feeling of belonging to a long, illustrious past surfaces to great effect on "Come Ye Sinners" -- again just using the human voice in harmony.

Not all of the tracks on here will be familiar, but every one is well worth your effort to listen.

by Nicky Rossiter
3 May 2008

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