Swirls of the accordion over a steady backbeat of barroom drums and gypsy guitar opens local band Calling Ophelia’s second release of the year, a full-length LP donned “Slinging Our Dreams.” The tune is “Boardwalk Carnival,” an apt title for the fanciful images and la-la-las conjured by Brooke Chabot’s suggestive singing and songwriting and Dave Shaw’s accordion.
On “I’ll Dance with You,” she sings innocently the question: “A tisket, a tasket, what’s inside my basket?” She sounds like a long lost, little girl, all grown up yet still wandering about the woods. Memories of lingering emotion contrast with a strange, detached relation to the world around her. There’s a curiosity here born of all those years spent lost inside her own imagination.
Matt Tucker’s banjo rolls in on the third track, “Long Parade,” a rollicking country lullaby reminiscent of Neil Young circa “Harvest Moon.” The addition of Dave Tranquilla on the drums delivers a backbeat that was missing from Calling Ophelia’s tragic, yet beautiful debut EP “People Come Around.” His playing is as his name suggests: tranquil. Yet he possesses a subtle intensity that manages to drive the songs forward in an important way, recalling Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters.
Tucker jumps on the mandolin to trade licks with Liz Tucker, who thumps out a rhythmic bass line for the song “Lion.” At times, as on this 5-minute track, the songs stretch a bit too long for what the music has to offer. Perhaps some additional production or horns could have helped drive ahead this well-written reggae, folk song à la Ani DiFranco.
This doesn’t disappoint, however; it simply tells me that Calling Ophelia’s vision still transcends their experience and ability. Keep in mind they formed only two years ago by musicians who learned their instruments later in life. It’s a perfect place for an artist to be — full of potential and possibilities to come.
On “Teapots,” where Chabot drifts through morning conversations between herself and her dreams, I am transported to another place where life feels more real, as if projected in Technicolor.
I dance the “Primordial Tango” with Ophelia in the “Forgotten Garden.”
“Orange is the Color” brings the album back from the wilderness into a familiar groove that gets the feet tapping in a happy way, a way that feels like orange feels. Chabot comes across as particularly natural here, and the release is welcome. It’s a clear expression of joy, all the more powerful for the realm of mysterious emotions she’s told of us until now.
After fluttering between happiness and regret on “Sing That Song,” “Rain” speaks of redemption as Chabot shows off her voice’s innate ability to draw the listener into her world.
“To The Moon” brings the album to a swinging close, lovely harmonies, the drone of the accordion and circular mandolin riffs floating me off the sleep, perchance to dream some more. | callingophelia.com