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Review: Hunter and guests shimmer on 'Greenstone'

Ever since I heard a talk by John Steffl on "neoregionalism" a few years back -- in case you're wondering, that's a big word for a sense of place in art -- I've given a lot of thought to how place carries through art, particularly among the artis...

Ever since I heard a talk by John Steffl on "neoregionalism" a few years back -- in case you're wondering, that's a big word for a sense of place in art -- I've given a lot of thought to how place carries through art, particularly among the artists who live and work here in the Northland.
Nowhere in the area's music will you find that sense of place coming more alive than in Georganne Hunter's harp music.
Hunter, who also plays with Willowgreen, carries that sense of place from her CD titles right on down to the tunes themselves. Her latest, "Greenstone," is, of course, a reference to the stone found on Isle Royale, which incidentally gives its name to the ridge running down the spine of the island and the trail that runs along that ridge.
This latest disc contains four Hunter originals and a collection of traditional and contemporary folk pieces. The originals, starting with "Red Pine Reel," all hold that sense of place, and even the traditional tunes carry overtones for our Northland culture -- two of them, for instance, are Norwegian.
Another interesting trend with local folk music: Reading the CD covers for guest appearances is almost as much fun as doing so on the classic jazz albums of decades past. Besides Hunter's elegant harp playing, one can note among the players violinist Carolyn Carver (who plays with the DSSO and also in a piano trio with my wife) and cellist Ed Willett from Chance, a renowned folk duo that recently toured with Willowgreen.
The music on "Greenstone" is typical Georganne Hunter -- spirit-filled and lush, with a broad emotional palette. Despite its being an ancient form, there is something almost forbidden about this traditional harp music, as though one expects wood sprites to leap out of the stereo or something. And in spots, there is a New Agey feel one might expect of something being played at Alternatives bookstore.
Some highlights:
"Red Pine Reel" has the peace of the woods carrying through, and gosh, don't we need that about now? It's a grand opening piece.
"Castle Danger" is named after that spot along the North Shore with the funny name, although the music seems more reminiscent of the name than of my experiences with the place. This is one of the spots where Willett's gifts get a little play, too.
"Slockit Light" has a funny name that I don't quite get, even though it was explained. Nevertheless, it's got the catchy tune you'll be humming the next day, carried in a duet by harp and violin with each taking a turn at melody and harmony.
A set of Hunter's favorite dance tunes comes toward the end, "Crossing to Ireland/Rights of Man/Butterfly," and it's some of the best music on the disc, especially the third one with some really nifty harmonies.

Kyle Eller is news editor at the Budgeteer. Contact him at kyle.eller@duluth.com or at 723-1207.

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