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With Madison Violet, the wait was worth it

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., February 13, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Madison Violet could be forgiven if they couldn't remember having been to Boston. After all, one-half of the duo, Brenley MacEachern, told the crowd that the last time was about eight years ago. That was many tours and miles ago. Her mate, Lisa MacIsaac had no recollection at all of playing Beantown.

But with a buzz behind them on line and a fine new CD, "No Fool For Trying" (on Canadian label True North), the Canadian duo (augmented by an upright bass player) were finally back.

Madison Violet did not have a long time to play as their appearance was part of the club's Winter Campfire concert weekend. With a sound check needed, that left MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac a scant 40 minutes to do 8 songs.

And Madison Violet (they used to bill themselves as "MadViolet") made the most of it in a solid set paced by well-written songs and fine voices and instrumentation.

MacEachern has a more husky voice, rougher than MacIsaac, but they trade off vocals and blend very well together whether on ballads, such as The Ransom, one of the most country songs performed, Lauralee, about a woman who slept around, or the upbeat bluegrass song Cindy Cindy.

By far, the most haunting song of this night and probably any night was The Woodshop. MacEachern set the stage by saying her father was a woodworker in their basement hand had been given a piece of wood, which he put away. MacEachern recalled getting the news one night three years ago that her brother had been killed in Toronto. Stunned and shocked, she went home and turned on the television to the lead news about her brother being the 52nd victim of the year. Needless to say, you could hear a pin drop during their performance of the song in which her father used the leftover wood to build a pine box for his son. It was very hard to imagine MacEachern singing this song every single night.

That was the only downer of the night, but it was quite moving. MacIsaac (FYI, she is the brother of Ashley, who once upon a time had a hit on this side of the border) and MacEachern both displayed a spirited stage presence.

Typically spending a good chunk of their time in Asia and Europe, it was a treat to see Madison Violet on this side of the border, but they had better not wait so long to return.