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Schoenfeld, Orsoni entertain with new CD

Are you looking to get more poetry in your life, but you don't like making time to sift through journals or chapbooks? Or maybe you just want a change of pace.

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Are you looking to get more poetry in your life, but you don't like making time to sift through journals or chapbooks? Or maybe you just want a change of pace.
I've got one for you: "Personal Ad," by Ellie Schoenfeld, a well-known local poet and co-founder of Poetry Harbor, and Lew Orsoni, a unique Northland singer-songwriter you've got to hear if you haven't.
If the extent of your exposure to the spoken word backed up by music is watching lame William Shatner commercials where he's a "poet" hawking Price Line, that's OK.
Just know that on this disc the performance is genuine -- nobody's shilling for a dot-com startup, that the music is infinitely cooler and more accessible and that the poetry, the centerpiece, is interesting and well done.
It's hip mostly in the Northland sense of that word. It's something you can listen to and enjoy.
Let's start with Schoenfeld, whose "Screaming Red Gladiolus!" I reviewed some time back.
Many of the poems on this disc come from that Poetry Harbor chapbook, but as with most good poetry, Schoenfeld's work takes on a new life when heard, rather than read.
"Personal Ad," the title poem, is a tremendously funny poem about relationships, as is "Post Mortem" and "Acapulco Holiday." Other poems -- "Patty," "I Ride Greyhound" and "Alicia's Pets," for instance -- revel in the ordinary details of life.
Through this all is a strong feminist overtone, as in "Magda" (if I hear it right, this poem also seems to carry a pro-abortion message I can't and won't endorse). Politics also come meaningfully, and more palatably for me, in "Things My Family Taught Me."
In all, the language and rhythm jump out with an intensity that's hard to miss. Schoenfeld gives a good read, too, strong and clear, just dry enough to carry the wit of her poetry.
Orsoni is equally impressive, and perhaps since I was less familiar with his work going into this disc, he caught my attention most.
Orsoni sings and plays acoustic guitar with a funky, mellow style that blends crooner, jazz, blues and folk with quirky and interesting lyrics.
Orsoni's style and his voice go hand-in-hand. He actually sounds a little like a Rat Pack crooner at times, with enough gruffness to pass as a crusty folk singer when he wants to. Sometimes, he just breaks off singing altogether and speaks in tune, which complements Schoenfeld's reading nicely.
Similarly, his guitar playing is filled with interesting chords and deft fingering. The effect is calm and mellow, at the same time attracting interest.
"Friday Night in Paradise," offset with Schoenfeld's "Personal Ad" and "Patty," starts the disc and sets the mood. I also really like "Something Ate Time" and "Blue Danube."
I am concerned with the production quality. The disc I received played in my portable disc player and on my home computer, but it would not play on my home stereo. Hopefully this is just an anomaly.
The juxtaposition of these two artists works really well, and when Schoenfeld dropped the disc by the Budgeteer offices, it was clear the disc had exceeded her expectations.
Small wonder. This is really good.
There is dry humor and wit. It's inherently listenable, and it's terrific entertainment. Better by far than the last movie I rented, quite honestly.
I don't agree with everything Schoenfeld has to say, but a very high proportion of it resonates with me, and I enjoy the way she says all of it. I think you'll enjoy it, too, and I think you will really dig Orsoni's music.
This one's definitely a keeper.

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

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