When a duo releases a debut album, it makes perfect sense to present themselves in the authentic purity of two voices and two instruments. That’s exactly what Zoe and Cloyd did on their initial recording, Equinox. And it makes just as much sense, when putting out their follow-up effort, to broaden their range and instrumentation and show the world just how wide their stylistic scope and sound can be. And that’s where we find the pairing of fiddler Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller on Eyes Brand New, a compelling and engaging second CD.
While the album’s ten tracks give them plenty of opportunity to display the intimacy of their sound as just two musicians, they have also brought in banjoist Jens Kruger, resonator guitarist Will Straughan, and bassist Kevin Kehrberg to augment their band on some tracks. And augment they do, perhaps most effectively on Cloyd’s ancient sounding ballad “Jewel Of The Caspian Sea,” which opens with his a cappella voice and concludes as a propulsive bluegrass song in which Zoe’s fiddle drives the rhythm effectively.
They achieve an engaging balance in styles with their softer folk songs such as “You Light My Way,” “Old Stone Wall,” and the title-track serving as contrast to songs that would serve them in good stead at a bluegrass festival, such as the gospel number “Let’s Go Down To The River” and the clever novelty song “Running On Empty.” The instrumental tracks “Frontier Waltz” and “Underground Railroad” let Zoe’s fiddle play off of Cloyd’s mandolin and banjo for a spare, evocative sound.
What really makes Zoe and Cloyd’s music linger pleasingly in the listener’s memory is the special synergy their two voices have together, as well as their knack for both composing songs and tunes in a traditional-sounding mode. Add to this the addition of hauntingly beautiful older material like “Farewell To Fiunary,” which closes the album, and we’re left with a musical collaboration that demands to be heard. (www.zoeandcloyd.com)HK