I am normally not a fan of folk rock, especially not women’s folk rock. I guess I haven’t been in touch with my feminine side for a while, or perhaps decades of listening to rock music have taken their toll on me, but it seems that hearing women sing songs about love, flowers and babies (and other such girly things) usually leaves me rolling my eyes and getting sleepy. So much to my surprise I really liked Seven Ways to Sunday, the debut album from SolQuest, two women singers and songwriters from Boston.
The reason I even have this album is due to my participation in a Latvian music camp in Ogre, Latvia, in the summer of 2000. In one of my more daring moves, I decided to take part in the choir there, although I wasn’t much of a singer. My singing remained mediocre, but the choir experience was particularly memorable because one of the choir directors was Anita Kupriss, a Latvian from Boston. Besides being a great instructor and having a tremendous voice, the one thing I will always remember about Kupriss was her incomparable enthusiasm—she had the energy of a dozen people (or one person with a dozen cups of coffee). This energy was infectious and was one of the main reasons why in just a few short days the choir was able to perform a number of pieces successfully. Kupriss also has been a member of Kolibri, the Latvian vocal and instrumental ensemble, and has more than a dozen recordings to her credit.
In the group SolQuest, Kupriss teams up with Mary Pratt, who has been singing in selective choral groups large and small since her youth. A vocalist, guitarist and songwriter she has appeared at coffee houses and clubs, weddings, parties and church-related functions. Pratt combines her classical voice training with years of experience in folk, jazz and popular genres, and this all comes together in SolQuest’s album.
One of my favorite songs on the record is the opening number, “I’ve Changed,” a soulful song sung by Kupriss about a woman who’s no longer “that girl you knew” and whose “soul wants to move on.” I particularly like the jazzy guitar introduction to the song. This song also shows that even though it is folk music, that doesn’t mean it cant have attitude.
A reason I like this recording so much is the ease by which Kupriss and Pratt move between styles and genres. From the bluesy “Why Cats are Like Men” (featuring some great slide guitar by Pratt), to the more traditional-sounding “Out in the Fields of God” (lyrics by Elizabeth Browning) and “The Journey,” Pratt’s and Kupriss’s voices adapt to the new styles without any difficulty. No surprise then when they describe their music as “eclectic acoustic.”
Another favorite is “Sing with Joy, Delight and Grace,” a very beautiful song by Pratt that is based upon a Latvian funeral song, and is a “positive perspective on death.” This song features Kurpiss playing the kokle. Particularly touching is the final line of the song, “I have sung my evensong, I will see this world no more.”
“Winter Solstice” is another beautiful song based on two Latvian folk melodies—“Pūti, pūti ziemelīti” and “Sudrabiņa lietiņš līja”—but in an interesting variation the refrain “Kaladū” has been replaced with “This I know.”
The blues are also present in “Managed Care Blues,” a song about the wonders of managed care in the United States. Pratt tells a story about seeing her feet turn blue, and then her troubles getting to the hospital (which include not being able to get through because of an answering service maze, not being able to afford an ambulance, and a rather disasterous attempt to get there by bicycle).
And, of course, there are songs about love and babies. A folk record without songs about them is like a western movie without a cowboy riding off into the sunset. I especially like “Bittersweet Love,” due to the very pretty piano part. The appropriately titled “Lullaby (for Anne)” is a simple melody, yet it is effective through its simplicity. This is a song that could very well be sung to a small child.
Traditional in certain ways, non-traditional in others, Seven Ways to Sunday is a record full of great songs and performances. Even though there are many different styles represented on this release, the songs flow very well together to produce the truly eclectic and distinct picture that is SolQuest. Folk fans will find this a refreshing twist on the genre, and even non-folk fans (like myself) can find much to enjoy on this well-crafted work, as you can tell that Pratt and Kupriss had a blast making this album. If you are ever in Boston, you can see them play at open mike nights at Moonshadow Cafe, Acton Jazz Cafe and Passims. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this very talented duo.
Seven Ways to Sunday
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