Annabelle Chvostek’s String Of Pearls is indeed, a place where, as U2’s Bono once sang, “Then all the colours will bleed into one”. Although Toronto born, Annabelle’s music swings with French cabaret, Uruguayan tango, a 1930’s speak easy vibe, weird jazz, and a deep root that touches the very best of acoustic folk music.
The first three songs drip these various musical colours into the folky broth. ‘Je T’ai Vu Hier Soir (I Saw You Last Night)’ is a breezy tune with vocals in both French and English that are punctuated with a clever bi-lingual violin. The song is a joyous dance that glances at pre-Great Depression flapper nonchalance abandon. ‘String Of Pearls’ is even better, with guitar, mandolin, and slight jazzy horns that dance with jitterbug backing vocals which halo Annabelle’s own really wonderous gin and tonic Ferris wheel voice. Then, ‘Cannabin’ gets cabaret serious and struts an elongated tango dance—aided by Fernando Rosa’s arranged smokey jazz band that conjures live magic and twists logic with its melodic gravity. By the way, Annabelle’s voice soars over all the combustion, which ends with a horn ensemble free-for-all that manages a 78 RPM shimmy dance that somehow graces the pages of every F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
For fans, it’s important to note this music is quite different from very acoustic singer-songwriter English only (and slight) country vibe of her quite brilliant Resilience album.
That said, ‘Walls’ (not the Gordon Lightfoot song!) retreats into a very private place. It’s a dramatic acoustic song that stretches folk musical time into full orchestration with taut (and incredibly voiced!) melodic passion. The tune is the soul of the album.
It’s all a bit, to keep the French banner flying, like those The Lady And The Unicorn (aka La Dame À La Licorne) tapestries in the Paris Musee de Cluny. They were, given my Midwestern American myopia, only a really nice John Renbourn cover; but when in Paris (still with rock and folk music myopia guiding my tourist steps!), those visited tapestries revealed their dimensional woven beauty. String Of Pearls is no different: A close listen (like one of those ancestry tests!) reveals such tender passion that interweaves all that French stuff—but these grooves also mingle with strands of a slow tango and Annabelle’s own East European roots.
Yeah, this music is a lovely tapestry of tightly woven folk sounds.
And the fun house music continues: ‘D’etre Humaine’ puffs a cigarette with French cabaret acoustic guitar (sort or) jazzy sounds. ‘Come Back’, is again, dramatic with a weeping accordion, that thankfully, never dilutes its urgency. ‘Belleville Rendez-vous’ swings like an anointed preacher’s revival words. The drama continues with the steady pulsed (Tom Waits written!) ‘Just The Right Bullets’ that suddenly gallops with sagging jazz horns into truthful addictive sunsetted confession and sings with caution taped verbiage. And ‘Halfway Through’ exposes a soul’s simple (with intensity personified!) reflective dense melodic diary that is consumed with internal psychological warfare. The tune wades through its Red Sea muck that never quite fulfills any Biblical safe passage promise.
Good music, perhaps, does this all the time.
My friend, Kilda Defnut, says, “This is the kind of music sold in the tourist gift shops in much more advanced universes”.
Well, String Of Pearls is certainly worth the price of that cosmic travel time. Here on our terra firma Earth, those tourist shops sell the stuff that fills the racks of all my thrift shops: You know—silly photos of Germans dressed in lederhosen, odd caps, and tubas galore—Swiss guys dressed in lederhosen, odd caps, and Alpine horns galore—Russian guys dressed as Cossacks with balalaikas galore—French people with accordions, berets, baguettes, and wine galore—and in my America, starched God-fearing guys who sing sacred hymns galore–while being photographed outside a wood-framed and equally starched God-fearing steepled church, who occasionally, cut the odd nod to the commercial charts with their rendition of the old perennially favorite chestnut, ‘Praise The Lord And Pass the Ammunition’.
Let’s just say this album doesn’t warrant a thrift store sale—with or without any ammunition being passed or any lederhosen being worn.
The final songs embrace a truthful multi-cultural beauty. ‘The Fool’ dances with cabaret swing of a joyous summer evening—with danger in the air. ‘Firefly (You Just Know)’ bubbles with more contagious jazzy pop music and quite soulful swing. Then, ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ decelerates the ride and sings on a cushion of dreamy air.
String Of Pearls is (to quote Lewis Carroll) a “frabjous” travelogue soundtrack that can conjure nice memories that, what with covid and all of that, come from places never yet visited. This music bends gravity. And, as said, perhaps, good music does this all the time, because, well, “all colors” are always meant, indeed, to “bleed into one”.
Artist’s website: https://annabellemusic.com/
‘String Of Pearls’ – official video: