New Release Rack: Annie & the Hedonists’ “Tonal Indulgence”



Review by Glenn Weiser

Tonal Indulgence
Annie & the Hedonists, 2015

With their fourth CD, Tonal Indulgence, local favorites Annie & the Hedonists have shown us again that they are the ultimate acoustic music cover band. The quartet, consisting of Annie Rosen on lead vocals, husband John Rosen on guitar, Peter Davis on piano, clarinet, banjo, and tenor guitar, and Don Young on upright bass and guitar, eschews writing originals in favor of well-chosen songs in a mix of genres. And with all their combined talents, you can see why they don’t stick to any one style.

The Hedonists’ new release contains 17 songs encompassing swing, string band music, hokum blues, contemporary folk and gospel. The kick-off track, blues chanteuse Trixie Smith’s 1922 “My Daddy Rocks Me,” was the first song to use the phrase “rock and roll.” It opens with Davis’ clarinet playing slinky melodic lines over a slow, sensual shuffle groove before Annie enters with her sultry alto to tout her man’s staying power. Hazel Dickens’ “My Heart’s Own Love,” evokes the Appalachians with Davis’ five-string banjo and guest artist Jay Ungar’s fiddling. The traditional ballad “The Water Is Wide” receives a languid swing treatment as Annie and daughter Hannah Rosen harmonize over a jazzy chord line, vaulting the old folk classic forward into the 1940s.

Freud famously said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but that’s not so in the Hedonists’ Count Basie-flavored version of Melanie Safka-Schekeryk’s 1971 “Brand New Key,” where she’s got the roller skates and he’s got the key, you see. In “Shut De Door,” the full quartet harmonizes over a contemporary gospel tune backed only by tenor guitar and achieves a Caribbean sound as they admonish us to keep the Devil out of our hearts.

The most memorable track, though, is “I Can’t Give You Anything But Pennies From Heaven,” a contrapuntal overlaying of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Pennies From Heaven,” which happen to share the same chord line. Chet Aktins pulled off something similar by playing “Dixie and “Yankee Doodle” simultaneously on one guitar, but this is even better.

Tonal Indulgence is Annie & the Hedonists’ best record yet.

Annie & the Hedonists will celebrate the release of “Tonal Indulgence” with a two-night stand at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 8pm on Friday & Saturday, November 27 & 28. Tickets are $20 in advance; $22 at the door.

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