October 17, 2006

Mad Agnes at Roaring Brook

As one gets older, the years start tumbling over one another. I last saw Mad Agnes perform back in November 2003 - nearly 3 years ago. If feels like yesterday. Sheesh.

Adrienne, Margo, and Mark are my own local favorite harmony group - homegrown Roches (except Terre is a boy in this incarnation). As they prepped for a capella numbers, Margo would finger a chord on her keyboard, and joke that you could tell if was gonna be a traditional / cover song (minor key) or a Mad Agnes song (major key) and she demonstrated that about 1/2 the time. A mini music lesson, and funny.

I've loved Mad Agnes from the start - I saw Margo perform solo in the way early years (in my I am recently single and alone so going to folk music concerts is pretty much my entire social life period) and fell in love with her voice, her music, her spirit. And I have followed her through Madwimmen in the Attic (Margo, Adrienne, and Diane, who could have been in the audience at Roaring Brook, not 100% sure and its been years since I have seen here) which I loved, and finally into Mad Agnes.

They were, as usual, in fine voice and technique - they are all wonderfully talented, and its neat to see them trading off instruments (Margo and Adrienne share a bass, Mark bounces back and forth from guitar to dobro to mandolin, and Margo never seems to sit still on one instrument for more than a song - keyboard, guitar, travel guitar). It is overwhelming how skilled and honed they are - I have been listening to the new CD over the past day or so, and so many of the songs are pretty much exactly the same as they were performed live. In a lot of cases, people tend to smooth the rough edges, layer on effects, fill out the accompaniment in the studio. Not Mad Agnes - their live music is lush and perfect, and needs no studio wizardry.

It's funny, Mark seems to have come into his own of late; teasing Margo and Adrienne (and vice-versa), carrying an equal portion of harmony. I enjoyed his leg of the stool as much as the other two this time around. Margo mentioned "Mark has three instrumentals on the new CD" and sometimes that can be code for "we did not have enough content" or "prepare for self indulgence" but really his three tracks are fairly short (1 - 2 minutes) and delicate and tasteful and leave you wanting more. As I listened I thought I would like a whole CD filled with his instrumentals, I could practice yoga to them or just leave them playing in the background of my life.

The new CD is a mixed group of songs. Adrienne's songs speak of a relationship gone south - loss, pain, loneliness, hope (Chocolate, Everything I Needed to Know ABout Love I Learned from My Dog, Black Crow). But also, two pieces on work (Katie and Circuit City) and the eerie and beautiful mood piece Rabbit in the Moon which so perfectly uses the Mad Agnes harmonies and ability to shift temp and mood.

Margo's pieces are also diverse - Green is a self critical / funny musing on jealousy, Voyager is a mystical bookend to Adrienne's Rabbit in the Moon, and Make It Better is a gospel tinged song of hope that DAMN WELL BETTER BE SUNG FROM THE MAIN STAGE AT FALCON RIDGE SOON. (this is what we call aggressive positive affirmation)

Finally, two numbers (and a centerfold of snapshots) pay homage to Mark's mother's place in Maine, where the band goes to recharge, write, relax. A Place This Quiet (Adrienne) is gentle and loving. And In Maine, co-written by Margo and Mark as a birthday gift to Mark's mother on her 90th birthday, brought tears to my eyes - so much love, so much beauty.

I want people in my life like Margo and Adrienne and Mark. They are creatures of light and beauty, they are talented and hard working and hopeful.

Mad Agnes is overdue for some success and recognition. Buying their new CD Revenants when it is available (I picked up a copy at the show, not sure if its available online yet) and going to see them live is a start. And I am officially starting the GET MAD AGNES TO FALCON RIDGE campaign right now.

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