Sofia Talvik’s Paws Of A Bear is wonderous backward glance to the singer song-writer halcyon days when melody, sincerity, and simple beauty sang to hushed coffee houses filled with attentive people with whispered attention.
Paws Of A Bear sings in the footsteps of fellow folkies like Joni Mitchell, Nanci Griffith, Tish Hinojosa, Bridget St John, Vashti Bunyan, and Moya Brennan (of Clannad fame). That’s great company. And these collective voices (figuratively speaking) all sing with the purity of the Euphrates River on the third day of creation.
Not only that, but to quote the great Richard Thompson’s tune ‘Meet On The Ledge’, “If you really mean it, it all comes around again”. And the music from Fairport’s Holidays late 60’s and early 70’s did “really mean it”. That’s the reason so much of the current music echoes those honest, artistic, and musical grooves. It was truly wonderful, and now, with a record like this, indeed, “it all comes around again”.
It’s just a thought, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I seriously doubt if the music and fashion of, say, The Thompson Twins and A Flock of Seagulls will ever be resurrected in the decades to come.
But to the album: the songs are deceptively simple. The title ‘Take Me Home’ conjures John Denver with “cakes on the griddle” and being “a glad country boy”. Well, not quite. No, this song is a return ticket of weathered thought that journeys past “the closed down school” and “ghosts” into “the sea”. It’s a lovely introspection framed by a lost and lonely steel pedal guitar. The same is true for ‘California Snow’, which is a wispy love song, yet the travel is in the midst of “breakdowns” and a nasty storm, both of which juxtapose the deep warmth of the tune. ‘Wrapped In Paper’ is an up-tempo love song (with really nice guitar work) that transcends the temporal. The Beatles once sang “Can’t Buy Me Love“. Yeah (yeah, yeah), it’s something like that.
And there’s psychological stuff. The piano-paced ‘Reflections’ delves much deeper into family archival passion than those ancestral DNA research commercials that promise famous relatives. It’s an amazing glance “into the mirror”. ‘Paws Of The Bear’ reaches into sincerity (and definitely Vashti Bunyan territory!) while the lyrics reach into the dark night sky. ‘Pharaohs And Friends’ bends fantasy into truth. Once again, the initial innocent sheen “of monsters and dragons” gets a curtain pull, only to reveal those “ghosts” and closed down schools” of sad reality,
‘Siren Song’ is cosmic/Celtic deep, as it travels into the soul of a dark and aged wood with tangled branches that touch tangled memories.
‘Blood Moon’ gets tough with electric guitar and (almost bluesy) passion while that constant pedal steel sings with such a lonely voice.
‘I Liked You Better’ is a great break-up tune. The song is sort of like finding a 51st “way to leave your lover” (Thank you, Paul Simon!). This one bites with the poison of a lover scorned. Ouch! But, it’s a very human ouch that’s plaited with humour. Sometimes, great folk music does that.
The final song, ‘Die Alone’, circles back to the initial ‘Take Me Home’. It has a deceptive melody and blunt lyric that glances into the mirror of ‘Reflections’ and walks past “ghosts’ and into “the sea” of ‘Take Me Home’. Then it sings to the inner soul—an inner soul that will always seek “the truth for everyone”.
My friend, Kilda Defnut, said of this record, “It’s warm enough to really enjoy the cold”. I agree. And it is music that reaches out to that “ledge” to sing about the tough stuff, while still never forgetting about a joyful (and quite necessary) memory of an ingenuous youth.
Artist’s website: https://sofiatalvik.com/
‘Take Me Home’ – official video:
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