Clare Burson

Silver and Ash

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For her third full-length recording, Silver and Ash, singer/songwriter Clare Burson obtained a fellowship that allowed her to travel to the homes of her ancestors in Europe in preparation for a concept album about her grandmother's life, leading up to her escape from Germany fleeing the Nazis before World War II. This information is provided in the publicity materials provided to journalists, and it's good that it is, since a mere listen to the album would not elicit it. In songs set to folk, country, and pop/rock arrangements, Burson sings, in a thin alto, repetitive lyrics that impressionistically refer to dislocation and loss. "There's a hole in the house where my baby boy lay," she repeats over and over in "Baby Boy," for example, and she expresses a sense of overwhelming menace in "Everything's Gone" with the multiple statement of the chorus, "There's no way out." But Burson's attempt to address such a large subject is hobbled by her minimalism. "I've always leaned towards poetic simplicity and subtlety in my music," she acknowledges in the publicity materials, "wanting to express as much as I can with the fewest possible words and musical flourishes." That's fair enough as an artistic goal, but when it comes to taking on the Jewish Diaspora from Europe in the 1930s and the onset of the Holocaust, such an approach necessarily results in a work that conveys little more than the mood of the topic. Without footnotes (or in-concert explanations), the ten songs in 30 minutes of Silver and Ash come off as a series of musical miniatures in which people are being dispossessed and threatened, though it's hard to tell why.

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