Paula Sinclair & Uncle Tumbleweed,
The Good Horse
(self-produced, 2007)

If the lyrics of The Good Horse seem scattered and from a multitude of sources, don't worry: it's intentional. Paula Sinclair wrote the music of this album specifically for the writings of her favorite poets, including William Stafford, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Miller, Debbie West and Jarold Ramsey. And in the case of The Good Horse, poetry is offered in a delightful musical manner in this two-disc set.

The primary disc, The Good Horse, is an assortment of added ingredients that make for a wonderful aural experience. With her favored poets' works providing the starting point, Sinclair and Uncle Tumbleweed add a trumpet here, electric instruments there, plus violins, a viola, a tuba and a cello as the song requires. These elements are utilized in a selective manner so that they only serve to emphasize the lyrical content. Sinclair's vocal style is strong and direct, which also helps in the delivery of and emphasis of the poetry.

The bonus disc, Paula Sinclair & the humble beginnings of the good horse, has an elegant simplicity in its very under-produced quality; however, please do not imply that the other disc is over-produced. In fact, the primary disc feels whole and complete, as if every piece and aspect is finally put in its place. The "humble" songs allow the listener to hear the distilled essence of each song as well as subtle distinctions in Sinclair's vocal performances. (It's not unlike the situation of Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album and the more simple acoustic arrangements on many of the same songs offered on The Freedom Sessions.) If one wants to enjoy a simpler, more straightforward sound, humble beginnings is a delightful alternative.

Paula Sinclair and Uncle Tumbleweed offer an enjoyable two-disc musical experience with truly poetic content. Their manner of presentation allows for a fuller, more enhanced session, or if one's musical palate is seeking lighter fare, that is provided as well. The result, nonetheless, is that either choice will likely lead to satisfaction.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

30 August 2008

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