by S.J. Tucker
Skinny White Chick Records, 2007
Religious records are tricky. At best, such music elevates both artist and audience; more often, it deteriorates into God/ess-shouting. Even so, music captures spiritual feelings better than almost any other medium. When an artist moves beyond pious clichés, the results can be …which Blessings often is.
Tucker’s music has always had a Pagan lilt, and Blessings brings that element to the forefront; this album is a love note to modern Paganism. Several songs ― especially “Come to the Labyrinth,” “Hand-fast Blessing,” “For Love of All Who Gather,” (both versions) and “Witch’s Rune” ― work best in ritual context. Others, notably “Rabbit’s Song” (the album’s weakest cut), use earth-spirit influences for conventional songs. Several songs were composed for rituals in which Tucker took part, and these songs ― “Labyrinth,” “Rune,” “For Love of All Who Gather/ Spirit Call,” “Handfast Blessing,” and “In the Name of the Dance” ― are the album’s strongest cuts.
Tucker handles most of the instrumentation herself, with occasional backing vocals from Omnisti and Valkyrie. Keyboardist Ginger Doss and djembe player Winterhawk spice up the proceedings, but the arrangements on Blessings are simple and spare. The exception, “In the Name of the Dance,” is a full-blast crowd-pleaser that seems misplaced at the end of the album. Indeed, the biggest flaw in Blessings is its awkward momentum. The individual tracks stand well alone but don’t flow cleanly into one another. Combined with a very short length (38 minutes), this makes Blessings more of a collection than a consistent musical work.
That said, “Hymn to Herne” may be the sexiest Horned God evocation on record, while “Come to the Labyrinth” deserves to become the official song of Samhain. The reprise outro of “For Love of All Who Gather” features an exquisite guitar passage, while “In the Name of the Dance” is one of the best songs I’ve heard anywhere. Blessings isn’t Tucker’s best album (Sirens is), but it’s well worth owning.
RATING: 4 Broomsticks
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