Dusted Reviews

Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn / Ginger Brooks Takahashi & Friends - Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn / Ginger Brooks Takahashi & Friends

Album: Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project

Label: K

Review date: Aug. 11, 2003

Joy, Fun, and Seasons in the Sun

Singer/songwriter Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn and graphic designer/musician/Mobilivre-Bookmobile founder Ginger Brooks Takahashi came together towards the tail end of the summer of 2002 with a simple idea – write and record an album in a town in which neither of them lived. Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project is their document of 30 days spent in relative isolation in the Blue Ridge Mountains in September, joined here and there by a few unnamed guests. Perhaps it’s best to look at the resulting 28 minutes and change not as an intended artistic statement, but rather as an aural document of two people’s trip. And much like looking at pictures of your adventures in far-off places, inevitably the disc is good for a few great moments, some nifty incidental stories, and a bunch of loose ends that can’t adequately convey the mood that surely existed at the time.

Eight of the tracks here are interludes. This, like many album segues, becomes problematic – a lot of them feel tossed off and kind of forced, or almost like incidental pieces that don’t really add much in terms of cohesion. And at times, some lead off with the potential for a great idea, only to cut short before delivering on the goods. Undoubtedly the acoustic ditties, field recordings, and spare little instrumental flourishes probably had a grander meaning but ultimately come across as a series of pieces in media res, with little to link each subsequent one to the bigger picture.

The actual songs contained here, though, are pretty uniformly great, bouncing back and forth between lots of different, nuanced, individual sounds without ever sounding disjointed. “While We Have the Sun” is a gorgeous lo-fi gem that brings to mind a lot of the more brilliant moments of Mirah’s solo work; her gentle confessionals pour forth over some spare picking and the persistent, changing instrumental swells. “Life You Love” bears a marked influence of the duo’s Appalachian surroundings, with slide guitar traipsing all over the place amidst Mirah’s upbeat lyricism. “You Were Crying for Love” makes excellent use of chirping crickets, sunken instrumentals and twinkling toy keys and strings, allowing Takahashi’s vocals to carry the tune to bed as a lullaby. And on “The Knife Thrower”, Takahashi’s vocals take on a more urgent tone with lyrics to match over a backing of thumping percussion, sawing strings, and persistently striking keys. “Rock of Ages” is a beautiful duet accompanied occasionally by piano, but mostly allowing for a delicate interplay between Mirah’s and Takahashi’s voices. “Oh! September” is probably the biggest surprise here – an upbeat rocker that at times sounds dance-inducing. An ode to the plans the two had, what they accomplished and what was left by the wayside, the track forms a fitting close to their collaboration.

The project that Mirah and Takahashi entered into was a spirited one at that, but ultimately it can’t hold a candle to either artists solo works, be they in the realm of music, design, or bookmobiles (if you ever see the Mobilivre-Bookmobile parked on the street, do yourself a favor and stop by). But at just under a half-hour it’s a great carefree listen regardless. Those seeking the glories of Mirah’s solo discs on K will be saddened to know that as a whole it’s not quite up to snuff, but with the sort of patchy brilliance that still makes it worth the listen. Then again, the nature of the project didn’t really allow for the sort of pensiveness required for the creation of a great full-length. The two merely set out to document the time they spent learning a new place, and for the most part that comes across in their quiet ruminations. In the end, it survives as two great artists emerging from a heartwarming project with a few amazing songs. And if that’s not enough, the proceeds from this album go towards The Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland and the Pentridge Children’s Garden in Philadelphia. In my book, that alone is worth the price of admission.

By Michael Crumsho

Read More

View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about K

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.