Lucy Kaplansky (from the album Reunion) - Getting together with family and friends is always an excellent way to catch up on many years’ worth of what was and to get an idea of what is in the lives of others. Lucy Kaplansky saves us the long road trip needed to get the news over food and fun with her recent release, Reunion.
I have never met Lucy Kaplansky, but like any good Reunion, I came away from the album with a sense of the character she plays on her latest release. Reunion acts as a diary for a radio musician. Lucy jumps in with lyrical co-writes on a number of songs and lets the strength of her delivery take over the tunes of others. The Woody Guthrie-worded and Slaid Cleaves-arranged “This Morning I Am Born Again”, gets a rebirth in Lucy’s arrangement and delivery. The song has always seemed to me as a choice of personal spirit over organized religion, and Lucy’s subtle vocal power stays the course on that perspective. There is a softness to Lucy’s vocals, though the delivery never comes across as quiet. She has a mastery of words in her singing that allows the punch to be present without you ever seeing an arm drawn back to take the swing. Among the original tracks, Lucy steps up to the microphone for a beat-pumped version of The Beatles’ “I’m Looking Through You”.
The Eliza Gilkyson cut, “The Beauty Way” receives an A list treatment from Ms. Kaplansky. In Navajo tribal traditions, the beauty way is a spiritual path, a way of living. In ceremonies, the tribe uses the term to re-establish balance in our lives. On Reunion, “The Beauty Way” becomes a tale of a troubadour’s guitar that has been handed from parent to child. Lucy sings of a “doe-eyed kid and a little transistor tuned into Wolfman Jack” who “picked up a guitar, heard the sirens whisper, and I never looked back”. The song fits into the character painting that infuses Reunion with the flesh and blood needed to attach the singer to her songs. It may not be autobiographical, but you get the feeling that Lucy Kaplansky has lived song lines such as “I felt the lights on the big, big stages, the fire burning in my soul. I’ve had those nights when my guitar rages, but it’s not something you control”.
Reunion opens the family album-- the songs becoming pictures on a page. “I’ll See You Again” reflects on parents meeting, loving, and living a life. “Mother’s Day” and the parent/child relationship is pared down to what you get from that special bond whether from a phone call or a late night cuddle of safety. Like much of the world, love is not delivered on a physical plane in daily doses, but when it is there, you grab it and hold on, feeling every heartbeat and squeezing it for every precious drop of sweetness that it brings.
Reunion uses its title track to hop in the car and head from Chicago to Toronto in 1971 for a family gathering. Step by step the personal life of each member opens up and becomes alive. It is a testament to the commitment Lucy Kaplansky gives to each word that the lives that play out in Reunion could be her, someone a lot like her, or perhaps it’s your life. No matter whose lives we are hearing in her songs, we can all hear a little bit of our own times and feel the emotions of others. For more on Lucy Kaplansky, and to find out more about her music and tours, look into her website. DANNY McCLOSKEY/RA