In the opening moments of Martha Scanlan’s fourth album, The River And The Light, there is this pause right before the music kicks in; it occurs like the deep breath in right before a sigh, or the brush of sand against the bottom of a boat being gently pushed into the current.
What follows is a journey, and in this day and age of Spotify and playlists it is rare to find a recording compelling enough to be so taken into such a journey.
The current one is swept into on the opening track "Brother Was Dying" is pulsing with rich electric guitar tones, somehow lush and spare all at once, the tension of so many opposites- hope and despair, intimacy and inclusion, birth and death, weaving seamlessly in and out of each other in one winding pulsing groove.
It was the first take of a song Martha had just finished writing moments before, and the first time playing it with longtime musical collaborator and producer Jon Neufeld.
“I think it was the only take,” she laughs. This is not unusual for them. Anyone familiar with Martha Scanlan and Jon Neufeld’s unique alchemy on stage will not be surprised by the sense of being taken into the moment- their shows are in themselves a journey of improvisation; the way Jon Neufeld’s brilliant innovative guitar playing weaves effortlessly around Martha’s timeless songwriting is simply magical.
This magical alchemy is at play here throughout The River And The Light.