Born in San Francisco, Comnes began her musical life singing with an a capella female ensemble that specialised in Balkan and Eastern European folk music while also exploring Irish fiddle music and studying spoken Gaelic and the sean-nos style of singing. None of which is actually relevant to this, her fourth album, which is deeply rooted in rootsy Americana , kicking off with ‘No Hiding Place’, an itchy, swampy blues number that marries lines from Appalachian ballads to a Bo Diddley beat, fiery bowed fiddle and backing vocals from the T Sisters and sounds like a real live scorcher.
An often dazzling fiddle player, she’s no shrinking violet on the vocal front either, her strong voice stained with a backwoods grittiness yet also crystal clear, which, in tandem with powerful melodies and forceful, powerful, earthy lyrics that reflect her connection to the elements, means there’s not a track here that doesn’t command your attention.
Particularly compelling is ‘Burning Eden’, an apocalyptic number fuelled by her fiddle and co-producer Gawain Matthews’ muscular guitar as she sings “we are burning den and the waters rise, many will perish as they fight for their lives” before the drums come to the fore and, joined by the T Sisters, it transforms into a mid-section chant of “down , down, turn it down”. Reminiscent in places of ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine’, accompanied by Matthews on lap steel ‘Lie With You Tonight ‘is a terrific country ballad with yet another infectious chorus, while ‘Give In To Grace’ offers a moodier tone to her ballad side, enhanced by yearning fiddle.
On more musically up-tempo notes, a bluesy, fiddle burning ‘End of the Line’ is another lyrically downbeat, end of days number, ‘There Must Be A Reason’ deals with broken hearts using fishing imagery and a choppy contemporary bluegrass groove whereas ‘Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone’ offers a more traditional, banjo-led take on the genre, while ‘Look Again’ deals with the legacy of Chernobyl to a loping reggae rhythm. I was also much taken with ‘Because They Never Do’, a stately, fiddle veined ballad that, based on the book of the same name by Patrick Erin Monaghan tells the emotionally powerful, sombre tale of two lovers fleeing to America to escape the 1841 Irish famine, never to return.
She says this is the first of her four albums on which she’s put words and music together as a songwriter. On the evidence, she should do it a lot more often.
Artist’s website: http://www.luciacomnes.com/
‘Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone’ – live: