For most of the 1990s, Laurel Masse took a leave of absence from the music business. But thankfully, the former Manhattan Transfer vocalist didn't retire from music permanently. Recorded in 1999 and released in 2001, Feather & Bone marked her return to the studio after a decade of isolation. Those who know Masse for her work with the Manhattan Transfer in the 1970s or the solo projects she recorded for Pausa in the 1980s will be surprised to learn that this CD doesn't contain any jazz whatsoever -- or even any jazz-influenced pop. A radical departure from anything Masse did in the 1970s or 1980s, this diverse album ranges from Celtic music ("N'Da," "I Am the Mountainy Singer") to classical (Bach's Gigue), to a traditional Quaker hymn ("How Can I Keep From Singing?"). Most of the time, Masse performs a cappella, which proves to be a good thing because the lack of instruments has a way of making her sound especially soulful and spiritual. And when an instrument is employed -- whether it be a fiddle, a frame drum, or bagpipes -- Masse still favors a minimal approach and makes sure that her performances have a very intimate quality. Jazz snobs will no doubt be disappointed to learn that Feather & Bone is devoid of jazz; regardless, this is a compelling, moving album that no doubt means a lot to her.
Feather & Bone Review
by Alex Henderson