Misty River 001/002
label/artist website
Misty River is an all-female quartet dedicated to vocal harmonizing in the genre of Appalachian Americana. Its paths of Celtic fiddle, Bluegrass banjo and Zydeco accordion intersect with heartfelt lyrics and a healthy disdain for speed-for-speed's-sake showmanship. Think story-driven art house movie rather than Hollywood special-effects extravaganza. No honky tonk broken-down-truck, whiney 6-pack Country Blues fables, either. Far from it. That's likely due to the maturity of the Misty River ladies who must have lived full lives with their eyes open, to now pen lyrics like for "Real As A Dream" which go:

I tamed the winged horse, I slayed the giant, I found the magic beans; I grew the beanstalk, I climbed for hours, I saw our whole kingdom stretched out for me.

I brought you the winged horse, gave you the treasure, showed you the fairy tree; I pointed out dragons, showed you our kingdom, thought you could share it all with me.

Chorus: I told stories, and I believed; but now I know the fairies that I've seen were dust in a sunbeam, and a promise is real as a dream.

You couldn't see fairies, you weren't up for fighting, you made that perfectly clear; you rescued a damsel, what was the danger? The one in danger here is me.

Chorus: You on your white horse made for the sunset, you and your princess bride; is this the end of the story, I fight the dragons, you get the glory?

With Carol Harley on guitar/banjo, Laura Quiglei on upright bass, Dana Abel on accordion and Chris Kokesh on fiddle/ guitar, all of these ladies not only sing but know how to execute tight harmonizing without wavering. As it turns out, their by-line "compelling harmonic voices" isn't empty marketing sizzle; it's raw fact. The year 2000 debut Rising favors down-tempo ballads to stay more or less clear of the higher energy romps of next year's Live album. That sports its fair share of quasi Irish-style reels and jigs cantering and galloping, and exceeds the former's 10 tracks by seven, for a near hour's worth of being at the foot of the stage surrounded by a highly appreciative audience.

Those listeners who share my relative lack of appreciation for Country music will hardly find Misty River countrified, except perhaps in its given choice of instruments. Rather, what we have here is lyrical Celtic, not twangy Cowboy or -girl; lazy Bluegrass, not fiery fingerpickin' contests; downriver New Orleans bayou vibe, not square dance roadside gig. And dig this - Misty River's hip to High-End audio not only in their production values and recording quality but will perform at Mike Maloney's CES digs at the St. Tropez this January, every day during the luncheon cook-out in the courtyard.

Count me in. I may be a country ignoramus, but if you sing to me as sweetly and smartly as the Misty River gals, I'm your guy. To make their acquaintance, either of these albums will do the honors. The difference? One's a laid-back relaxed studio production, the other an extended live gig whose bouncy grooves may occasionally have you wishing for your own "Black Pony". Of the two, it leans a bit more into the Country milieu, which is perhaps why I fancy Rising for listening at home while I would favor Live at the Backgate Stage on the road. Either way, it's a recipe for sophisticated songwriting of lyrical depth, tender moments and no-nonsense maturity. My thanks to Carol for sending these two recordings. I didn't know what to expect but am now the richer for it. See ya gals in Vegas!