Take the Air
Artist: Jenn Rawling and Basho Parks
Distributed By: Waterbug Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I love my job here at G-POP.net. It offers me the opportunity to check out music from performers that, for whatever strange reason, never seem to make it to the mainstream radio stations I listen to every day. I had never heard of folk and country singer Jenn Rawling or mater string player and harmonist Basho Parks before receiving an offer to review Take the Air, their debut album as a duo. After reading up on the interesting backgrounds of the two artists, I couldn't wait to listen to this new album.
Jennifer Marie Rawling is a native of Wisconson and spent quite a few summers working atop a firetower in the Mt. Hood wilderness, affording herself the solitude and time to focus on songwriting. Inspired by nature, Rawling's country and folk performances have earned her quite a fan base in the Portland, Oregon music scene.
Basho Watson Parks is a native of Colorado. Born in an adobe hut to parents who were considered hippie idealists, Parks had quite a radical beginning in life. He has since made a name for himself in Portland, Oregon as a session musician, bringing to the music scene his twenty-six years of experience as a string musician, playing all sorts of string instruments, including violin, viola, mandolin, ukulele, and guitar.
The two artists met on the music scene while contributing their talents to bands in Portland. Both had been recovering from possible career-ending wrist injuries and the two eventually began collaborating music and a whole lot more. They now live together in perfect romantic harmony in Portland, Oregon translating that romantic harmony into musical harmony on Take the Air.
While listening to this album, I was immediately struck by how well Rawlings and Parks harmonize with each other. Their voices blend together so beautifully, it's awe inspiring. It has been a long time since I heard such a perfect blend of harmonies from two individuals. In fact, I have always felt that the best representation of a successful harmonizing duo is The Indigo Girls. Each performer's voice compliments the other's perfectly and the resulting sound is quite pleasing to the ear. Alone, Jenn Rawlings has an amazing voice, reminiscent of Natalie Merchant in its strength and purity. Basho Parks' voice perfectly compliments Rawlings in every way.
The meanings of the songs on Take the Air don't always catch you right away. This is a thinking man's album and there's a great deal of metaphorical meaning to sift through. What makes this album unique is that, after the first listen, you find the vocals so beautiful and the blending of violins, banjo, fiddle, percussion, guitars and whistling...yes, whistling...to be so intriguing that you want more. You want to know what the songs mean and you want to hear them over again. You want to be able to sing along with the songs, so you listen to them more intently the second time...and the third. By the time I was finished reviewing this album, I had listened to it four times. I enjoyed it so much, I listened to it again the next day.
Each song on the album is inspired by nature in some way, yet can directly relate to moments in our lives - loves lost, loves found, relationships, pain and more. My favorite songs were the ones that felt emotionally driven like Oh Delia, Gather it Up and Leaving So Soon, but I couldn’t help but love the bluegrass fun of Little Swallow.
The pairing of Jenn Rawling and Basho Parks is a match made in musical heaven and one that I am now quite happy to keep an eye on. I have a feeling that Take the Air will not be the last we will hear from this duo that seems destined for more than just the indie scene.