10,000 Maniacs – Twice Told Tales (Album Review)

10000 Maniacs CD cover med res1 - 10,000 Maniacs - Twice Told Tales (Album Review)

10,000 Maniacs – Twice Told Tales (Album Review)

10k maniacs 2 med res - 10,000 Maniacs - Twice Told Tales (Album Review)

Formed in 1981 in Jamestown, New York, 10,000 Maniacs has had various lineups, which included the original lead vocalist Natalie Merchant, who left the group in 1993 to pursue a solo career. Currently, the band consists of Dennis Drew (keyboards/backing vocals), Steve Gustafson (bass/ backing vocals), Jerry Augustyniak (drums/backing vocals), Mary Ramsey (lead vocals/viola/violin), Jeff Erickson (guitar/vocals), and returning original member John Lombardo (guitar/vocals). Consistently active through the years, 10,000 Maniacs has released nine studio albums, from 1983’s Secrets of the I Ching to the forthcoming Twice Told Tales due out April 28th via Cleopatra Records.

Those who are familiar with 10,000 Maniacs because of songs like “What’s the Matter Here?,” “Hey, Jack Kerouac,” “Like the Weather,” “Eat for Two,” “Trouble Me,” “These Are Days,” “Rainy Day,” and a cover of the Roxy Music classic “More than This” and Patti Smith’s “Because the Night”—all of which are oozing with New Wave and Pop sensibilities—might be in for a surprise with the band’s latest offering. Whereas many of the band’s previous albums had strong commercially oriented songs, Twice Told Tales seemed to be a deliberate digging into the group’s primitive roots. It may even be regarded as a concept album founded on Irish/Celtic Folk sound that features lyrical references to Irish mythology and Scottish folktales. Those more well-versed on the band will know that even in the beginning and on their subsequent albums, the music of  10,000 Maniacs has always been rooted in Folk. The incorporation of violin, viola, mandolin, choral strings, and occasional piano seems a prerequisite. The rhythm guitar is often brightly jangly; the lead, arpeggiated; and the trebly bass, constantly moving. Layers of percussive instruments frequently augment the full sound of the drums, and the expression of the vocals is more of yearning and wishful thinking than of angst and whining.

Twice Told Tales opens with a violin instrumental, entitled “Lady Mary Ramsey I.” Interesting named after the band’s vocalist, the story goes she was searching her name one day and came across the age-old piece by luck. An a cappella piece, “The Song of Wandering Aengus,” follows it. (Aengus is a god of love and youth in Irish mythology.) Anyone familiar with the discography of Dead Can Dance might associate this haunting piece with the English-Australian band’s version of “I Am Stretched on Your Grave,” which was actually a translation of an old Irish poem first set to recorded music in 1979 by the Irish musician Philip King with his band Scullion. So, there is still the Irish connection. The mood then slowly builds up into familiar upbeat 10,000 Maniacs territory, but with touches of Celtic music—“She Moved through the Fair,” “Dark Eyed Sailor,” “Misty Moisty Morning,” the pennywhistle-led “Bonny May;” which may remind the listener of the English Indie/New Wave band Lick the Tins, “Canadee-I-O,” and the 6/8 ballad “Do You Love an Apple?” The latter part of the album is comprised by slower ballads: “Greenwood Sidey,” short and monorhythmic; “Carrickfergus,” a Country-tinged ode to a Northern Ireland town of the same name; the elegy “Death of Queen Jane;” and “Wild Mountain Thyme,” a Folk song of Irish and Scottish origin. Before the album finally concludes, the listener is treated to the jolly and celebratory stomper “Marie’s Wedding.” Aptly, the album wraps up with a reprise of the introductory track, “Lady Mary Ramsey II.”

Overall, Twice Told Tales is a beautiful collection of original and reworked Folk songs and tunes that can take the attentive and introspective listener to a rustic journey filled with European tales and stories set to contemporary Folk music. Many of these songs are over three hundred years old and 10,000 Maniacs do a magnificent job of keeping their tradition and alluring sound alive. CrypticRock gives Twice Told Tales 4 out of 5 stars.

10000 Maniacs CD cover med res - 10,000 Maniacs - Twice Told Tales (Album Review)

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aLfie vera mella
aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature.In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music.As a means to further his passion for music, he formed the band haLf man haLf eLf. He now performs with another band, The Psychedelics.aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He began writing album reviews for CrypticRock in 2015.In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf? His next planned literary endeavor is to publish the remaining parts of the anthology and his works on Poetry, Fantasy Fiction, and Mythology.In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. He participates at various community events; and he explores the diverse cultural beauty of Canada whenever his schedule permits it.aLfie is a doting and dedicated father to his now ten-year-old son, Evawwen.

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