|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.0 cm|
Review by Tony Smith
Miriam Lieberman has a rich and beautiful voice. It would take a long, long time to tire of this mellow sound. Her playing of the kora adds a further dimension to her voice. The kora is not well known in Australia but the arrival of migrants from Africa means that the instrument is entering the local folk idiom. Best known as an instrument from West Africa the kora resembles a harp or lyre sitting atop a gourd resonator. It is notoriously difficult to tune and to play, but you would never suspect this listening to the skilful way Lieberman uses it. In her hands it is not only an earthy accompaniment to her singing but also a melody instrument with a fresh, summery sound. Voice and instrument soar together.
In these ten tracks, Lieberman shows her skill as a songwriter and arranger, but it is usually the music which seems to drive the lyrics rather than vice-versa. Listening to ‘I Awake’ for example, you hear the sweetness of the sound and the lyrics seem less important. Certainly, individual lines impress with the force of poetry: ‘I am lifted, I am small, I am reverent to the mystery of it all’. Furthermore the lyrics always seem to flow perfectly with the music.
There are some individual tracks that deal with potentially difficult topics. In ‘Do You Hear Me’, Lieberman expresses the desperation of feeling fear. She draws deeply on childhood experiences here, but the music sings any demons away. The same is true of ‘Waiting for You’ which touches on the pain of knowing a loved one has departed forever. But there is no sense of desperation, no depression of the spirit. On the contrary, perhaps because the album has a collective integrity about it, the overall effect is uplifting.
Lieberman has excellent support from Lara Goodridge on violin and backing vocals, Kate Adams on cello and Josh Schuberth who plays several instruments as well as mixing and recording the tracks. With the availability of sophisticated studios and the opportunities provided by multi-tracking, too many folk musicians have been tempted to refine their output to such an extent that they are unlikely to ever be reproduced in live performance. Perhaps it is part of the appeal of Full Circle that it retains the intimacy of an acoustic concert. No electronic wall isolates Lieberman from her audience. This album is inviting, enticing and welcoming.
The colourful album cover has also been a team effort with Lainie Cann’s body art a feature. Throughout, little white feathers flutter earthwards. There is a continual reference to the changing of time and an evocation of ‘The Phoenix’ with its promise of rising from the ashes and flying once more. It is rare to encounter an album that is so uplifting from beginning to end. While Miriam Lieberman deals with some serious themes here, she does so in a way that is never too heavy or oppressive. ‘Falling’ is followed appropriately by ‘The Phoenix’ with its regenerative theme. Full Circle is an album that leaves the listener with a feeling of opitimism.
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