Clare & the Reasons


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Claire Muldaur Manchon is the daughter of Geoff Muldaur, a master of American vernacular music, and she is undoubtedly making her father proud, but her music is light years and a continent away from the styles that made her father famous. With her band the Reasons, led by her husband Olivier Manchon, she follows up her sparkling 2007 debut with another winner full of impressive melodies and wistful vocals that weave a shimmering web of melancholy romance. The tunes are enhanced by the inventive arrangements of Olivier's, charts that echo the best elements of the French chanson tradition without a single false note. Olivier creates delirious clouds of sunshine and shadow, and Claire rides them like a fairy queen, sprinkling clever turns of phrase that always sound fresh and spontaneous despite the obvious craft that went into them. There's not a single weak song in the collection, and they all sound better with every listen. "Ooh You Hurt Me So" makes lost love seem almost bearable with its lush, '60s-accented melody, a bouncy electric piano, and Claire's whistling during the bridge. There are two songs about honeybees -- "Our Team Is Grand," with a cello that hums in the background like a contented hive, and "Mellifera," with its gorgeous vocal and a buoyant keyboard and woodwind arrangement. Both use images of the natural world to evoke the cyclic quality of love relationships. "You Got Time" and "Perdu a Paris" use clusters of repeated notes that sound like electronic loops. The device allows Claire to show off her ability to demonstrate wrenching emotion with minimal effort. "Perdu a Paris" also makes use of trumpet and French horn, producing a sly musical pun. "You Getting Me" is coyly sexual, the most rocking tune on the album, but it's the softest rock possible with a great groove and another winning melody. One would expect to find quite a few albums by Brel, Trenet, and Aznavour on the shelves in the Muldaur Manchon home. Claire Muldaur Manchon has captured the Gallic predilection for playful, flowing melodies and lyrics that blend romance, melancholy, and world-weary wisdom into seemingly frothy confections that leave a bittersweet aftertaste when the last note fades.

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