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Humphrey/McKeown - Tapestry of Shadows (2017)

Written by Mike Yoder, posted by Jason


Heather Humphrey and Tom McKeown have sustained their songwriting partnership over the course of five albums, a radically altered musical landscape, and rapidly changing tastes that might have otherwise left them moored in the reefs. They have survived and prospered thanks to talent, above all else, but surely because of the personal connection they share that’s so strongly manifested in their work – and, moreover, the components of their individual personalities that allow them the latitude to keep their gaze resolutely focused on what they want to accomplish as an unit and exhibiting the necessary discipline to bring that off. Their latest album Tapestry of Shadows is a testament to their continued value as a recording, writing, and performing outfit and they’ve surrounded themselves with a supporting musical cast who gives the songs an unified band feel. It all, in the end, comes down to the unique confluence of their voices why Humphrey/McKeown still stand out and above after all these years.

It’s the songwriting quality too. I defy anyone who claims to be a fan of singer/songwriter driven music, blues, classic country, and bluegrass to hear the opener “Beautiful” for the first time and not be bowled over by the completeness of sound, the seamless entwining of their voices, and the exceptional lyrical content This is the sort of composition and performance that drags traditional music out from beneath its pinned-like-a-butterfly-under-glass existence and restores it to brilliant modern life with the sort of uncluttered, lush instrumentation that only rare performers can manage. “You Don’t Know Me” is steered by McKeown’s voice, primarily, but it’s a wrenching tune in any great singer’s hands. The vocal makes the most of their moment by digging deeply into the phrasing potential.  “Flower on the Wall” is a beautifully wrought mid tempo number with just the right amount of spacing between the instruments and a rambling, loose confidence that will immediately lure listeners in. Humphrey/McKeown hit a peak of sorts on the release with their vocal performance on the track “Someday”. One of the best parts of their harmony work is how it is clearly never intended to land with unerring accuracy. Their voices are extraordinarily complementary, but there’s a suggestion of spontaneity pervading every passage that many will find quite entertaining.

“Our Beautiful Sad Dance” has a stark beauty that many of the earlier and later songs do not possess. It isn’t even overly theatrical or stilted however; the vocals bring flesh and blood emotions to life in such a way that you never question the track’s credibility. “Your Secret’s Safe”, thanks to its alluring vocal melody and sharp accessible lyrics, seems like it could be an ideal single for the band – there’s not a lot about this song the audience won’t be able to relate to. Their duet vocals on the song, once again, give it a quality it might otherwise lack and it works marvelously. “Madness” begins very deliberately, but it soon packs quite a punch and moves with a steady stride that makes it one of the second half’s most memorable performances. Tapestry of Shadows has a lot of sounds and makes quite an impression even with one listen. Later listens reveal even more riches.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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