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Madison Violet

No Fool for Trying – 2010 (True North)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Madison Violet

A Toronto-based duo, Madison Violet is too lush and graduated to be alt.-anything. Bridging the territories of Neko Case, Jenny Whiteley and Crooked Still, with their third album Madviolet principals Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, alongside producer Les Cooper, have created a recording rooted in the history of MacIsaac's Cape Breton homeland as much as the southern American musical traditions many have explored during the last decade. Instrumentation, melody and language work in concert to forge an impact that weaves into the soul and intelligence of all who encounter it.

Their lyrics maintain loose narratives comprised of engaging, poetic phrases. While listeners may not completely comprehend The Woodshop ("dust to dust and ashes 52") the impact of a lost son is palatable. A similar theme is further explored in Crying.

With rock and roll attitude infecting the words ("Fancy cars lead straight to metal bars" from Baby in the Black and White) while exploring relationships ("Whenever I'm away I keep you in the small of my heart" from Small of My Heart), the songs may sound gentle, but this simply cushions the aching.

One of Canada's most versatile banjo players, Chris Coole contributes to the open arrangements while the upright bass work of both Victor Bateman and Paul Mathew is captivating. There is a consistency to the recording, which may cause some to overlook nuances of individual songs.

Recently named Vocal Group of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the magnetism of Madison Violet remain their complementary vocal complexity. MacEachern's and MacIsaac's voices blend and harmonize with rare effortlessness. They don't challenge with aggressiveness, but neither are they overwhelmed. "No Fool For Trying" is a balanced vision of vocal-based roots music, one that sparks with live intensity.