Songs of the heart and noises of joy | WORLD
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Songs of the heart and noises of joy

MUSIC | Acoustic covers and jazzy klezmer from Louisiana

Ann Savoy Handout

Songs of the heart and noises of joy
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With the recent conclusion of the 53rd annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, now is as good a time as any to reflect upon the sounds of Louisiana. No one disputes the state’s claims on Cajun, zydeco, and jazz. But it has other ­musical aces up its sleeve.

One example is Another Heart (Smithsonian Folkways), the latest offering by Eunice, La.’s Ann Savoy. The title alludes to Savoy’s 2006 album with Linda Ronstadt, Adieu False Heart, to which this album was supposed to be a sequel. But when a neurodegenerative disorder silenced Ronstadt’s voice, the project hit a snag.

Enter Dirk Powell, a Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer whose résumé includes work with Loretta Lynn, Rhiannon Giddens, and Joan Baez. Between his talent and connections (getting Giddens to harmonize with Savoy on the Bruce Springsteen cover “Stolen Car,” for instance), he proved just the man to help see the project through.

The Savoy original “Cajun Love Song,” a taut rocker harboring three electric guitars, opens the album. Musically, however, it’s a red herring. Like the Best Traditional Folk Grammy–nominated Adieu False Heart (it lost out to Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions), Another Heart favors time-tested covers and acoustic textures (fiddle, mandolin, banjo, accordion) hospitable to Savoy’s ageless alto voice.

Not every cover goes with the flow. (The Kinks will always own “Waterloo Sunset.”) But the three that bring the album to a close—vintage obscurities from Joni Mitchell (“Tin Angel”) and Donovan (“Lord of the Reedy River”) plus Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”—do so with an otherworldly calm that suggests what the liner notes confirm: Savoy has held these songs close to her heart for a long, long time.

If Another Heart focuses on the human voice and emotions recollected in tranquility, Tipish, the latest by the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, focuses on the “voices” of Nick Ellman’s clarinet; Glenn Hartman’s accordion; Aurora Nealand’s, Ben Ellman’s, and Dan Oestreicher’s saxes; and the “basic noise of joy.”

“Basic noise of joy” is a phrase coined by the music historian Bob Stanley in his book Let’s Do It: The Birth of Pop Music to describe Dixieland jazz, but it could just as well apply to much of what the All Stars do, unassimilated Semitic inflections and all.

Not all of their noises are joyful. The menacing “Conference of the Jews” sounds like heavy metal resisting internal free-jazz pressure and “Dos Einte Kind (The Lonely Child)” like the World War II–era, Vilna-ghetto lament that it is. But even these glint with something impervious to despair. Most impervious of all: “Reb Levik’s Niggun,” which will put you in mind of the Royal Teens’ “Short Shorts” in no time flat.

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986.



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