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It has been too long since we have seen a new solo album from singer-songwriter, Lucy Kaplansky. Or has she just timed it perfectly. Whatever the answer there is no question she is back and back doing what she does best and that is making tidy, well produced records where most of the songs are her own aided by a well chosen cover or two; plus she has the ability to make the songs fit without one running into another by way of melody or general feel. Each and every song on the album is able to stand and be judged, independently.
Kaplansky’s hunger is back, and the songs are good as she fires on all cylinders. The material takes in family loss and how one generation blossoms as another to replace its elder (as with ‘Mother's Day’). The title-track ‘Reunion’ speaks of her grandmother who came to Toronto from her native Poland, and go on to set up the Health Bread Bakery chain in the early 20th century. Lucy’s parents ensured she gained a good education, and after dabbling in music as a duo act with Shawn Colvin who produced her 1994 debut album, The Tide she dropped music to gain a doctorate in psychology and set up her own private practice. I believe it is through this and her upbringing in Chicago Kaplansky has been able to continually grow, musically, and as a person roll with the punches and go on to record seven solo albums and two super group records, the latest being with Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka in Red Horse.
Her version of Gilkyson’s ‘Beauty Way’ is both wonderful and intelligent and a timely reminder of just how good the song is! She follows the covers theme with in quick succession Amy Correia’s dreamy ode ‘Life Is Beautiful’ and the Woody Guthrie written, ‘This More I Am Born Again’ (put to music by Slaid Cleaves) that has the mighty Buddy Miller lend harmony vocal support amidst evocative playing from Kevin Barry, national guitar; Duke Levine, electric guitar; Stephan Crump, acoustic bass; Ben Wittman, percussion. It is one of those songs that sets standards, and has in the title-track ‘Reunion’ one to match it in every way as Lucy mops ups alongside mandolin, guitar, accordion and harmony vocals of Richard Shindell.
With her ability to use real events and make them into stories that flow and simultaneously pull the listener in Kaplansky eases through such tales as family ode ‘I’ll See You Again’ and the funky ‘Gone Gone Gone’ and the bright opener ‘Scavenger’ plus, she has the nous to spruce up Lennon / McCartney’s ‘I’m Looking Through You’ (a top-three cut on most people’s albums; to have Barry, Dobro; Levine, mandolin; Wittman, accordion, percussion and Crump in the mix doesn’t harm non).
As for the closer, ‘Sleep Well’ it speaks of the passing of her parents and like all her own material it sees her husband, Rick Litvin share the credits; and he has every right to be proud of his fine deed.
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