Album Review: Kieran Kane and Rayna Gellert, ‘The Flowers That Bloom in Spring’
The first flowers of spring bloom with bravado, proudly displaying their colors both with a fierce resilience to the still-cold nights of early spring and as harbingers of the tender mercies of the coming season. Like these spring flowers, the colorful songs—and two tunes—on Kieran Kane’s and Rayna Gellert’s new album blossom vibrantly, shooting tendrils of sound skyward and unfurling petals of melody and harmony in exquisite radiance.
The title track opens with jaunty sparseness as the sorrowful strains of Gellert’s fiddle dance around the spry fingerpicking and strumming of Kane’s guitar. Kane sings about life and death in an understated vocal whose modulations mimic the fragility of life. Flowers that bloom in spring may be harbingers of new life, but they also bloom in that “moment in time” only and then they’re gone. The duo ponders whether we, like those flowers, also bloom for a brief moment before we’re gone.
The album launches with the sprightly “Bailout Blues,” driven by Kane’s bright, jangly guitar picking and the duo’s intimate harmonies; Kane’s fingers dance up and down the frets on the instrumental bridge, and the skittering cheerfulness of the song belies the economic and cultural desperation that fuels the lyrics.
Gellert’s mournful fiddle opens the ruminative “Lonely Are the Brave.” Kane’s somber banjo picking weaves under and around Gellert’s vocals and fiddle notes, conveying the singer’s sorrow at letting go of a never-dependable lover as well as her embrace of the freedom that comes with the act. Gellert’s sprightly fiddling opens the old-time hoedown reel “I Thought You Were a Goat,” a prancing tune that lift the spirits and evokes the gambols and capers of frisky barnyard goats.
The highlight of the album might be the crystalline purity of the duo’s vocals and instrumentation on their cover of “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” the song made famous by Hank Locklin. The duo’s version is closer to Janie Fricke’s version than Hank Locklin’s in the ways that it captures the palpable ache of the pleading words of the title.
An old-time album is not complete without a ballad of the death of a beloved, and “Augustus” sings of a young man’s death by drowning at sea after the singer and Augustus stow away on a ship. The haunting sorrow and joy of the song emanates from Gellert’s spare vocals sung over Kane’s mournfully plucked banjo. “Augustus” resonates with the ethereal beauty of death and the enduring power of dreams that both unsettles and reassures.
Exquisitely graceful, hauntingly joyous, and vividly picturesque, The Flowers That Bloom in Spring showcases the brilliant songwriting and the effusive singing and playing of these two kindred musical souls.
The Flowers That Bloom in Spring is available HERE.
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