Review : no fool for trying by Madison Violet
no fool for trying
by Madison Violet
(True North Records)
Review by Douglas Heselgrave
It’s not easy to make a good country album these days. Like the blues, country’s a genre of music that has been stewing in its own clichés for so long, that – to paraphrase the title of Madison Violet’s third release – anyone might be considered a fool for trying. Thankfully, Brenda MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, the two Canadian singers who make up Madison Violet are two such fools who together have transcended every obstacle in their path to record the best sounding acoustic country album of the year so far.
No fool for trying is an understated gem that could easily serve as a blueprint for other artists hoping to circumvent the excesses of Nashville and country pop in the age of Shania Twain. Each of the eleven tracks on the album succeeds brilliantly on its own terms without any superfluous overdubs or unnecessary clutter. Producer Les Cooper maintains a light hand throughout as he trusts MacEachern and MacIsaac’s vocals to carry each song. The supporting instrumentation is spare, but effective and allows the singers lots of room to explore and embody the emotional heart of their compositions. The interplay between MacEachern’s lead vocals and the stand up bass and ringing acoustic guitars is lovely throughout and elevates songs like ‘the ransom’ and ‘small of my heart’ to a level of musicality rarely found in country music. Not since West, Hal Wilner’s collaboration with Lucinda Williams have western music fans been treated to such a restrained and sonically perfect collection of songs.
While Madison Violet may not yet have reached Ms. Williams’ level of song writing, they’ve wisely chosen to avoid trying to replicate the hurting hard drinking world of disappointment that she inhabits in her songs. Instead, they’ve chosen to follow their own muses and make music that is sincere, direct and completely lacking in self-consciousness and irony. Though the lyrics of their songs may lack some of the literary dimension of Gillian Welch or Lyle Lovett’s best work, each of the spare and unaffected tunes on the CD is perfect in its own way. More than anything else, the sound Madison Violet conjure on this record is reminiscent of the Trio albums made by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstandt a decade or so ago. Like those records, no fool for trying evokes the simple joy that can be heard when great vocalists drop their egos, open their hearts and voices and sing from their souls. Highly recommended.