last updated 4/10/03

"All My Excuses" good reason to lend an ear to Karen Savoca

CD review by Andrew Griffin - The Town Talk - Alexandria, LA

If you have never heard of folk singer Karen Savoca, don’t be surprised. She’s probably one of America’s best kept secrets.

And to be honest, it was only recently that I was introduced to her music, through her work with Iowa’s grandfather of folk, Greg Brown. So, I have some catching up to do. Fortunately, Savoca’s latest album, "All My Excuses," is giving me a pretty good dose of what this enchanting singer is all about - and it’s not just folk. but a combination of various styles put together in a unique fashion.

I must mention that Savoca is not alone in her musical endeavors. Savoca’s musical partner, Pete Heitzman, accompanies her on guitar just as he has on all of her albums released since 1988. This is their fifth album released on their homegrown, Oneida, NY-based Alcove Records.

But back to the album. Check out the distinctive funkiness of "Love Is A Hammer," which has a folksy soul sound. It’s on this bewitching track that we get to hear Iowa’s folk master Greg Brown assist Savoca and Heitzman. Savoca and Heitzman returned the favor by producing Brown’s latest Red House Records release, "Milk Of the Moon."

Brown also appears on "Let Me Down Easy," which gets a bluesy stamp thanks to guest harmonica player Nick Langan and Heitzman’s fat electric guitar.

On "To Colorado," Savoca sings of "a town up in the mountains where the people understand me." Her beautiful voice and musical accompaniment (including T-Bone Wolk’s subdued and lovely accordion) really paint a picture of a scenic locale. Heitzman’s tenor guitar playing gives this song a Southwestern flavor.

There is a playful and laid back feeling to much of the album, which works well, simply because Savoca and Heitzman seem so comfortable doing what they do best.

There are also moments of quiet reflection. This is best heard on tracks like "Between Girl and Gone". "I stare out the window/Somewhere between girl and gone/Somewhere between here and movin on/ Grab the clothes from the line/There’s a storm comin' in." Another one would be the closing track, "Everytime The Sun Goes Low," where it’s just Savoca singing and playing piano. "This is a good fire/let the winds blow" she sings on this song. you can almost feel the winter chill creeping in through the cracks and crevices. Continuing, Savoca sings, "Such a gray morning, I woke up blue/Where would I be if I didn’t have you?"

There is also the eerie e-bowed guitar played by Heitzman on "Butterfly" that gives me chill bumps every time I hear it. I must also mention that Savoca is a talented guitarist and percussionist (she even plays her thighs).

Something that struck me about Savoca’s music is it’s earthiness and honesty. And "All My Excuses," recorded by Heitzman, has a very rich and full sound that catches every one of Savoca’s seductive verbs and consonants.

I urge you all to seek Karen Savoca out. Buy "All My Excuses" right away. Just don’t forget to thank me later.

-- Andrew Griffin

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CD review by Steve Edge - Rogue Folk, Vancouver, BC

A little soul, a little R & B, a little folk, and a whole lot of love. Karen Savoca makes music that will bring a smile to your hips and a song to your lips. It’s music that will fill your heart and keep you humming all the way home.

Karen Savoca made a stunning impression at her first Vancouver Folk Music Festival appearance three years ago. Who will ever forget when 10,000 people seated on blankets suddenly removed their shoes and waved them over their heads to "dance" to the music?

Her soulful, passionate voice swings from sweet to sassy, and Pete Heitzman’s guitar soars above and around the words to create a sublime and personal look at life. Beautiful, deep, and rewarding, their fifth and latest CD, "All My Excuses," is a musical tour de force of the human soul.

Hearing Savoca scream out for a lost love over the mountains ("I Call Your Name"), sing a sweet ode to a passing butterfly ("Butterfly"), roar out a passionate soul anthem ("Love Is A Hammer"), or whisper a plaintive lament ("Between Girl And Gone") one realizes she is one of the most versatile and expressive singers around. Above all, she sings with an inherent sense of fun, drawing the listener willingly into her world - an emotionally-charged celebration of life and all its ups and downs.

-- Steve Edge

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CD review by Jonas Kover - Observer- Dispatch, Utica, NY

The many-tiered voice of Karen Savoca surrounds mostly bluesy love tunes on her latest album, "All My Excuses." Though some call it folk, Savoca’s music moves all over the place - a bit of rhythm-and-blues, jazz, pop, folk and more. There’s a lot of fine tunes to grab on to while basking in exalting vocal transformations.

If you’ve never heard the singer before, this recording will make you a devotee. Her ever-changing voice caresses every reflection and can soar from a soft-murmuring start. The songs are all written by her and there are a few echoes of influence, but enduring melodies come through as well as vivacious mood carvings.

The instrumentals and studio melding provide intriguing moments to accentuate the vocals. Savoca and guitarist Pete Heitzman live in Oneida, NY, but they have been touring around the world for years. Judging from this month’s schedule they are kept busy - with dates on both coasts.

Almost all the music on the 12-tune album is acoustic, with Heitzman playing various strings, from guitar to mandolin and banjo. Savoca adds guitar and percussion and voice; T Bone Wolk, bass, Nick Langan, harmonica, and the illustrious Greg Brown puts his mark on background vocals in a couple of songs.

From a slow, svelte, sexy takeoff, the opening song, "I Call Your Name" contains a sonic boom hook, and Savoca’s wandering descriptions emit expectancy.

"Let Me Down Easy" is one of two immediately recognizable rousers that will have you humming along. The other peppery tune is "Love Is A Hammer." There Savoca begins with a deceptive hum to a bouncy beat and soft words before she blasts out the refrain, "Love is a hammer in your hand," maintaining this growling caressing sine curve throughout.

Another fetching work is "To Colorado." With its delicious catchy chorus it is one of two affirmative love songs on the album. The other song of affirmation is the last cut, "Every Time The Sun Goes Low." With it’s piano intro, it is a reflective idyll of tranquility and love.

In other songs, Savoca turns more inward, moody - with softer, melancholy reflections - and even here, her voice grips and holds in unexpected optimism.

-- Jonas Kover

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