Pretty Ditties Album Review: Seeking Commotion – Andy & Ariana
If Andy and Ariana were a cheese, they’d be a cheddar, aged, with something like cardamom or caraway mixed in—you see them everywhere, everybody likes them, they go well with everything, yet there is something of the exotic in there, and a pervading sense of fine craftsmanship. When they’re not appreciating fancy cheeses, these kingpins of the Wolfville music scene have been gearing up to release eleven sensual new tracks on their forthcoming album, Seeking Commotion, at a concert extravaganza on October 16th.
All the elements you’ve come to know and love are there: Ariana’s pure, expressive vocals and soul-stirring fiddle and saxophone solos, Andy’s skilled guitar work and percussive romps, as well as the intricate, quirky lyrics about everyday love and valley ballyhoo. The album contains this same high quality, but with more—more instruments, styles, genres, all of which combine to create a musically-rich soundscape.
“Pretty Gritty Ditty” in particular benefits from these added features. A banjo track, provided by South Shore musician Darren Arsenault, adds a unique pastoral texture and gives the already charming song even more beauty and depth. Many other songs incorporate what Andy calls this “sonic diversity”: you can hear mandolin, clarinet, upright bass, skat solos, even scissors.
Masterfully providing the rhythmic backbone on bass and percussion are bearded groovers Chris Robison and Adam Bazinet. These musician’s darlings lively up the already quite lively duo with solid beats and booms, and according to Andy “infuse both stage performance and recordings with abundant joy and happiness.”
The album features many other local and not-so-local musicians, including Heather Cameron, Ben Veneer, and Andy Kavanagh, among others. The ever-adorable “Little Birdie” song makes glorious use of extra performers, culminating in an angelic acapella, a golden chorus of voices.
What sets their new album apart even further from those previous is the caliber of the recording. Says Andy, “the last few discs we published were primarily live recordings of duet performances. This album was recorded in our studio, with a minimum of four musicians playing/singing on every single track.” The skill and attention devoted to the mixing of each song is readily apparent in the album’s lush and professional sound.
The best part of the album though, is that you can hear them smiling. Andy and Ariana’s love of music and each other comes out loud and clear, shining like a National guitar. Their songs make you feel happy you know them, and happy to be alive.
The Release Concert is October 16, 8-10pm in the Al Whittle Theatre. Tickets available ($12 advance/$15 at the door) from Box of Delights, the Rolled Oat and A&A at the Farmers’ Market.