The Poozies include Karen Tweed (accordion, vocal), Patsy Seddon (electro-harp, Aziliz – a small Celtic harp, fiddle, vocal), Mary MacMaster (electro-harp, Aziliz, temple bells, clarsach, vocal), and Eilidh Shaw (fiddle, vocal). This recording is my introduction to the group and what a treat it has been to familiarize myself with their music. Of the four, only Karen Tweed has been on my radar screen because of her membership in the Swedish-British group Swåp.
The songs and tunes on Changed Days, Same Roots come from Sweden, Ireland, Poland, England, Scotland . . . did I get it all? They weave these traditional and contemporary pieces into a cohesive, beautiful whole with superb musicianship and singing. I love the textures they create with the harps, fiddle, and accordion. Each instrument is clearly present because of the differences in their timbres. The electro-harp, played by both MacMaster and Seddon, is particularly distinctive – it often serves as a bass, wrapping itself around the band and giving it a luscious bottom end. Many people probably still think there is no place for an electric instrument in a “traditional” band, but I will go to my grave begging to differ. It’s all in how it is incorporated, balanced, and of course played. MacMaster and Seddon get it right as far as I’m concerned.
The Poozies’ sense of rhythm, chord structure and vocal harmony is interesting and intriguing throughout this album. It isn’t really radical, but there is a sense of color that is often just left of center, giving many of these tunes some real spice. A good example of this is on the medley “Sunny.” Seddon’s electro-harp bass line sets up a swing you might expect on a blues number, and Tweed’s accordion chords are rather unexpected but are a great choice for this traditional Irish song, “Ged is Grianach an Latha.” These parts provide the perfect lilt to support the Gaelic lyrics led by MacMaster. The singing of all four women then winds into a pattern that is not really a round but goes ’round and ’round in a wonderful swirl of music, eventually landing in a more traditional arrangement for the second tune, “Dr. Iain MacAonghais,” written by Alan MacDonald.
There are three songs that particularly catch my ear. “All I Want (Wouldn’t It Be Loverly).” Yes, Lerner & Lowe, but a distinct departure from anything you might have heard before. Shaw describes having heard a version of this by Roseanne Cash. She says, “it haunted me for months while I tried to work out her arrangement. It’s now over five years since I heard it so I’ve no idea how wrong I got it!” Balderdash! It’s a fascinating arrangement and one that is clearly a product of heartfelt inspiration.
“Rosa” is a traditional song from Poland, sung in Polish. Every time I play the CD,this song seems to end too soon. Maybe it’s that it doesn’t really resolve musically and I always think the player stopped. Ah well, with what there is, their harmonies are impeccably accompanied, including a little tasteful electro-harp.
“Throw the Ball” by Colum Sands, is a moving song that pleads for people to open their eyes about the dismal results of war (any war, though the specific one referred to is in Ireland). There are anti-war songs, and then there are anti-war songs. This one asks the questions in a quiet, poignant way, rather than banging you over the head with belligerent phrases, and is sung from a child’s perspective. Set up like a game song with a chorus of repeated lines, it also says that children will continue to find ways to play even with destruction going on around them. Play is what saves them.
The only minor complaint about the album has to do with not printing the full names of the artists anywhere in the booklet. I assume it was an oversight. Oops.