The Littlest Prisoner
As a jazz violinist – and, yep, sometimes with very obvious country leanings – Scheinman has assisted a who’s who-type list (Lou Reed, Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco, Christian McBride, Madeleine Peyroux) but her lasting musical relationship is with Bill Frisell, appearing on close to ten albums by Frisell in as many years – including last year’s wonderful Big Sur. She’s also, since 2000, released eight strong solo albums, this one harks back to 2008’s self-titled career highlight. It’s a gentle, gorgeous set of Americana songs, Scheinman the vocalist really shining, that violin still there in support of course, including one or two searing lines. Also in support she has Frisell on guitar and Brian Blade on drums; so the album’s worth hearing – worth having – for the band. Blade is a perfectly pitched and sympathetic backing vocalist too.
There are plenty of other surprises – Bruce Cockburn sitting in on the pleasant title track, Blade’s bodhran-like kit playing on My Old Man, Frisell’s perfectly bent blues on Houston, a song that features Scheinman’s most gorgeous vocal too – it’s something akin to the stunning vocal work on the new Delines album.
When she puts the fiddle to the fore, as on Debra’s Waltz, we get a lovely, affecting lilt; less a song more an interlude but still it’s a crucial part of Scheinman’s sound. But it’s those country ballads (Just A Child) that most strongly commend this record. And the closing Sacrifice is a joy, a perfectly simmered backbeat, smoky ruminations of guitar wafting up and around Scheinman’s clear, sweet voice. Stoic in the face of heartbreak, well it never sounded quiet so reservedly wonderful.