Wendy Jones Merkley,
Calling Card
(self-produced, 1996)

Calling Card by Wendy Jones Merkley is a good, solid folk/jazz hybrid. Some of the songs are magic; the musicians are talented and the lyrics are well crafted -- and yet very few of the songs engage me.

The music is consistently one of the strong points of the songs and the musicians deserve full credit for the excellent job they do. They are Michael Creber (piano, synth, synth marimba, accordion and background vocals), Buff Allen (drums, percussion, rattle, background vocals and gratuitous clown noises), Hugh McMillan (bass), Robbie Steininger (guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, high octave mandolin and dobro), Moritz Behm (violin and fiddle), Karen Suzanne Smithson (flute), Isaac Tait (native drum), Wayne Kozak (soprano saxophone, saxophone and laughter), Iain Benson (pennywhistle, jaw harp and caveat emptor) and Corbin Keep (cello). Rosa Helenius provides the narration on the second track. Colleen Eccleston, Monique Creber, Julie Vik, Louise Escallier, Christine Duncan and RaeJean Laidlaw also add their voices on background vocals. Wendy Jones Merkley has a beautiful voice, sometimes smoky and sometimes strong and clear.

The CD starts off with "New Mexico," a sparse jazzy folk song. The next couple of tracks are based on a native loon story. First is "Loon (Narrative)" and Rosa Helenius has the perfect voice for the retelling. Then comes "Lovely Loon," which tells parts of the legend.

"In a Cool Mist" is a wonderful song; the driving beat pulls me in and it is a blast to listen to. While the music and lyrics in "Sister" are lovely, I once again found myself on the edge of the song. By the time "Blue But Fun Guy" started I found myself on the outside of the songs again.

"Lone Star" is another softly drifting song that is touched with respect and love. "Big Dog, Little Dog" has a nice strong jazz beat to it, but neither song really does anything for me.

There is a catchy beat running through "Cruising Down the Cove for a Second Look" and the beat has the feel of a leisurely stroll. "China Doll" comes drifting in gently and pulls me into the music for a while.

I find it hard to define the sound of "Cowboy's Lullaby" because it is between so many things. The influences are hard to pin down as they might be there, but it is never definite. "Zocolo" starts to pull me back into the music with its energy and simplicity. "Passing" is a beautiful song to close off the CD.

Calling Card is a good CD. But for reasons I can't explain it seldom is better than good. The music doesn't even need to wow me, I just wish it would engage me more often than it does.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]
Rambles: 10 August 2001