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CD Review: Cleghorn / Lawrence / Hart / Miller 

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Perhaps the thought of “jazz poetry” makes you run screaming. Chances are you’ll change your mind upon hearing Merge. This CD smokes. It also tears your heart out.

Poet Cassandra Cleghorn pulls out her most somber themes and hammers them down on 18 tracks with some truly wicked players at her side—saxophonist/flautist and Levon Helm side man Erik Lawrence and members of Lawrence’s own band, Hipmotism, bassist Rene Hart, and drummer Allison Miller. Though brilliant as a collaboration, each player occasionally takes on solo roles, creating magic on the spot that also feels effortless.

Recorded and mixed at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock and produced by Cleghorn and Lawrence, this multi-textured recording takes the listener on a journey through an emotional labyrinth—the light-as-air “Firefly”; the intimate and angry “Project Grizzly”; the smooth and sultry “Honey”; the introspective, stripped-down “Winds Blow Through Me.” By the time you find your way out of this heady maze, you’ll feel changed in a way you may not be able to pinpoint. Whether you’re a poet, a musician, both, or neither, this thinking-man’s album is worth a spin if you’re ready for something surreal. Just close your eyes and become one with the strange fruit of Merge.

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