Feb. 24, 2013
-- Called "one of the best singers of her generation" by Christine Lavin, New Jersey-based folksinger and jewelry designer Mara Levine has been creating beautiful interpretations of fine traditional and contemporary folk songs for many years. As her January 2013 release, Jewels and Harmony, reveals, Levine has an ear for both new songs and for classics that can be reshaped to sound fresh and new. Layering one harmony line on top of another, she creates rich tapestries of sound and emotion.
Jewels and Harmony was the most played album on folk radio in January and also sported the top two songs � "The Dutchman" and "When I Sing With You" -- according to charts compiled by Richard Gillmann from radio playlists submitted to FOLKDJ-L, an electronic discussion group for DJs and others interested in all folk-based music on the radio. Si Kahn lends his seasoned and expressive voice to Levine's moving arrangement of Michael Smith's "The Dutchman" as a duet. Says Smith: "You and Si sound great together, and the interpretation is honest and sincere and tuneful... the cello and guitar and voices filled the space beautifully. I'm proud to be associated with your work." "When I Sing With You," a song that Kahn wrote for the album, features folk harmony trio Gathering Time and singer-songwriter Joe Jencks on harmony vocals.
Building on the success of Mara's Gems, her 2009 debut, Jewels and Harmony features 15 hand-picked songs that reflect changes we experience and some of life's journeys and passages. The change of seasons, with spring inevitably turning towards winter, mirrors both aging and the disintegration and loss of significant relationships. Other songs touch on yearning for meaningful connections that will endure and on themes of hopefulness, rebirth, the support of friends and partners who stand by us, the joy of making music together, and the healing power of music to soothe and keep us connected.
In addition to Kahn and Smith, Levine has drawn her material from popular contemporary songwriters like Bob Franke, Paul Simon and Bill Staines and emerging talents such as Nancy Cassidy, Jud Caswell and Pat Wictor. "Her version of Franke's "Straw Against the Chill" with Jencks and her arrangement of Paul Simon's "Leaves That Are Green" with Gathering Time also have been well-received by folk DJs and appear on the CD.
"Wow! I'm not sure where to start with the accolades for Jewels and Harmony� I've methodically played each cut and every song is brilliantly done," writes Jim Fisher, host of "Down Home Folk and Bluegrass" on WGCS-FM in Goshen, Indiana. Sharing similar sentiments, Bill Hahn, co-host of "Traditions"
on WFDU-FM in Teaneck, New Jersey, writes: "Jewels and Harmony is one of those recordings where you want to listen to the entire work and then listen once again. Mara Levine's voice jumps out at you with the clarity of a well-tuned chime or bell in the tradition of Judy Collins and Joan Baez. Her selection of songs for this project is truly well-chosen, and the delight of having the amazing guest artists with whom she has surrounded herself is a true treat."
Jewels and Harmony was co-produced by Bob Harris (Johnny Cash, Girlyman, among others). Harris, who toured with Vassar Clements, also plays guitar on 10 of its 15 tracks and helped with arrangements on several songs. A number of other artists on the contemporary folk and bluegrass scene also contributed their talents to this recording. In addition to those already mentioned, these include Jan Alba, Rose Berkowitz, Greg Blake, Brother Sun, Bill "Rusty" Crowell, Caroline Cutroneo, Bill Doerge, KC Groves, John Guth, Loretta Hagen, Chad Hammer, Terry Kitchen, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of RUNA, Andrew Magill, Cheryl Prashker, Terry Rivel, Elaine Romanelli, Dan Schatz, Jeff Scroggins, Tristan Scroggins, Mark Torres, Pat Wictor, and Bob Wright.
Copies of Jewels and Harmony may be purchased online at MaraLevine.com, where selections from the CD, live performance videos and more information on the artist also may be found. Digital downloads may be purchased both from the artist's website and CDBaby.com.