Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime

Album cover art for Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock SublimeIs it possible to be big and small at the same time? Mare Winningham thinks so. In Refuge Rock Sublime, she, a convert, stands as if under Sinai at the giving of the Torah. And it makes her huge. And you can hear it in every note she plays. Her guitar and voice are passionate but restrained, small and yet so much larger. The best of the tracks, including the stand out Valley of the Dry Bones, have that quiet echo that country music does so well. But Winningham reminds us that such sounds can conjure more than loneliness. They can open us to the sublime and make us all huge.

This album is the kind of country I can handle, with none of the chest thumping boot stomping hysteria of TODAYS HOT COUNTRY radio. Musically it reminds me of Alison Kraus, Emmylou Harris, or Gillian Welch. It also reminds me of Andy Statman and David Grisman's albums "Songs of Our Fathers" and "New Shabbos Waltz." While not every track works for me (My Fixed Point and Oh Moses are a bit heavy handed) the best of them mix humility, passion, and love for God and Judaism with solid songwriting and musicianship.

I've said this a number of times, but I longed for this sort of thing when I was a teenager. I longed for some strong musician and song-writer to sing about things I cared about. I never got it then, but it's starting to happen more often lately. That's why I love this album and absolutely hate one song on it, the third track, What Would David Do. If you edit out the chorus, you'd have an adequate reflection on King David. Not fabulous, but adequate. But then the chorus kicks in "ask yourself, What Would David Do." I wince. I sweat. I shudder. I hit fast forward. C'mon Mare. In the middle of such a heartfelt Jewish album did you have latch onto one of the most trite Christian cliche's of the last decade? sigh.

Anyway, this album is a keeper. My wife's swiped my copy already and has it in heavy rotation in the car. You should check it out. You can find it at Craig N Co's website and at Amazon. And, of course, on YouTube:

Valley of the Dry Bones


Anonymous said...

We just saw Mare perform at Joe's Pub in NY to an adoring crowd. Her music is truly sublime, and to see her perform is an even greater joy! ...and not just for Jews! El Paso, Texas is reveling as well!!

Jack said...

I'm jealous. I hope she plays the North Coast (Michigan) at some point. Ann Arbor would be a great town for her. I can hope at least.