Inside the new CD from this well-pedigreed Hudson Valley folk duo is a photo of their new son, Will, cradled under his mom’s neck like a fiddle. Warmth and love radiate from the image, and indeed, Waltz of the Chickadee offers a batch of rustic folk originals and covers swaddled in blankets of sweet harmony and softness, as if Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar Merenda set out to craft a new book of old-fashioned stringed lullabies to usher their baby through his first years.
Strangely enough, and perhaps specifically because Waltz seems to have been written under the spell of first-time parenthood, the album’s occasionally almost too nice: The songs that each dedicate to Will, “Baby” (Ruthy’s) and “Slow Train” (Mike’s), are both pretty but may seem overly anodyne if you don’t have (or aren’t) a baby yourself. It’s easy to pardon a couple that harmonizes like this, though; throughout the record, their sublimely twined voices evoke silken clouds stretching low across a sky. And Mike and Ruthy’s musicianship—honed over years of playing together, with family and in ensembles, most notably the Mammals—bears the mark of veteran brilliance, especially in the tunes that seem the most casually turned out, such as “Cooper’s,” a fiddle-led instrumental that Ruthy wrote at a sound check, and a scorching version of the traditional “June Apple.” Can’t wait to hear the record Mike and Ruthy make during Will’s terrible twos! www.mikeandruthy.com.