April 9, 2009

Album Review: Let It Rise

Avi & Celia's latest offering from the Green Mountain State, Let It Rise, is an odd mix of blue grass, blues and folk-rock, bundled together and following their small EP Off The Floor. Its eleven tracks present a wide range of the duo's skills, and shows that there could be a really bright future for the group.

I've talked about Avi & Celia before, and by and large, I've been impressed with their sound, although I suspect that their greater works are yet to come. They came through Montpelier's Langdon St. Cafe half a year ago, when I first saw them, and caught another show earlier this year. On stage, they're a formittable pair - Avi's strong guitar work and Celia's fantastic vocals paired together make them worth a trip out on a cold Vermont night alone, and if Let It Rise is any indication, they're going to be better still.

This album is far more composed and much more fun than Off The Floor, in my opinion. There's a wider range of style and sound here, and both artists get to really show off their talents throughout. There's a rich tradition of folk and blue grass that they seem to draw off of. Celia especially reminds me of the better qualities of Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith and Alison Krauss, (even a bit of early Grace Potter), which is paticularly striking, especially on tracks such as Rollin' & Tumblin', Seven Years and Ivory Bones, while Avi really shines on a cover of Tecumseh Valley.

The track that's most impressive, however, is Gnomes Time & Place parts 1 and 2 which is both inventive and fun at the same time, and amazes me ever time I hear it, for the complexity of the guitar work and vocals between the two. It's also paticularly catchy with a simple melody that blossoms out once you reach the second part.

The album isn't perfect, and it's clear that the duo is improving, and rapidly, but it is fun. At the latest concert in Montpelier, they announced that they were adding a bassist and drummer to their group, which addresses the bigger of my reservations of the album - while both Avi and Celia are good together, there is an element of their music that feels unsupported, an album of one-off songs that have some missing components to it. While the addition of these instruments here won't work for all of their songs, it would certainly add to several of them, and would open up a number of new avenues for the pair. I can't wait listen to them then, because they'll potentially be just as good as the Nocturals, with a killer blue grass and folk-rock feel to it. The potential is there, and they're off to a fantastic start.

Rollin' & Tumblin' - Avi & Celia