Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Music Review: at the edge of the unknown, by Minna Bromberg

I never would've imagined myself reviewing an album in this blog, but then I popped the CD in. Here's the thing: the I Am Veggie-Mightee blog comes from a place of love, faith, and generosity of spirit - and so does this music. It's a collection I can imagine many people I know to have visited this blog enjoying, so I'm making an exception to the general rule.

The album at the edge of the unknown is the newest release from alt-folk artist Minna Bromberg. I've always thought Minna sounded a good deal like Joan Baez, with a style a bit more like Joni Mitchell. But here, in her first album since her ordination as a rabbi, Minna's style seems to become more fully her own.

Layered with the modern folk vibe are elements of world music - particularly on the track Dig Deeper - and of faith. I hear tell that the album is actually listed under "Christian and Gospel" on iTunes. Funny, on the one hand, but also not entirely inappropriate. While it's Judaism that informs Minna's songs, what comes through is faith and spirituality, not religion. As a Christian, I find the music expresses shared sentiments. And my favorite track, I Lift up this Waiting, has some commonality with old spirituals, or at least new takes on them like Allison Krauss's version of Down to the River to Pray.

While the whole album seems very personal, very real, a few songs venture into memoir territory. This is generally not my favorite type of song and I don't really love it on These Are the Words, but there's a Cat Stevens-type feel about Gone Tarshisha that makes it infectious.

Tracks like Land of Love and Will One Ocean Be Enough bring the emotion, the full heart, that threads through this album to the surface. But the biggest take-away, the memory you're left with when you're done listening to the album, is Minna's clear, true voice. Perhaps the best example is Turning Song - a lovely guitar piece with an uncomplicated, understandable lyric - where her voice simply shines.

If you're a fan of folk, you're probably familiar with the very particular progression you tend to see in artists in the genre: they tend to begin borne of passion, and eventually arrive at a point of peace. This is Minna's arrival; this is folk come to fruition.

You can sample the tracks and buy the album at cdbaby.

Full disclosure: Minna Bromberg is my second cousin. While I don't think we've actually seen each other since Minna's bat mitzvah (and we're both now closer to forty than thirty), I do love her as family. But my admiration for her as a person and a musician is based in her character and talent, and thus I feel I'm able to be objective. If you doubt me, preview the tracks!

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