Karen has a beautiful voice with an unusually low register. I really enjoy the sparse accompaniment, particularly when the focus should be on this wonderful voice. The accoustic guitar work is extraordinarly measured, creating a rich canvas when needed, but also capable of creating musical tension, which is a rare quality in today's music. The album runs from the beautifully gentle to an almost funk feel. Karen's piano sends chills down my spine. Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, she gently moves the listener from one style to another almost seemlessly. An altogether wonderful album.
-- Michael Beaumont
2NSB FM 91.5
Dangerous. This CD should come with a sticker: "Warning! This record can be hazardous!" It makes you forget the things you're supposed to do all day long. You put the CD into the player and summer arrives out of nowhere. Then Karen Savoca starts to sing and her voice glides through the songs. And that is when you start melting away for sure.
Here We Go is Savoca's fourth CD. This one was recorded at her home studio, a renovated old church in upstate New York. And that is maybe part of the magic, too. There's a lot of quietness here, giving the music time and space to develop and breathe. It's music that shuts you up, as if it were a sacrilege to even whisper until the very last note has left the loudspeakers. Still, there is nothing fragile about Savoca's voice. It purrs like a wild cat, it glows like the the polar light, always with taste and grace. She is only too aware of the diamond that is hidden beneath her skin. There doesn't seem to be a single moment when she's not in control of even the slightest movement of her vocal chords.
In a way you could call this a lazy record -- other musicians might feel the need to fill up the music, put in more riffs, more instruments, more of everything. But for Savoca less is more. One needs talent and self-confidence for this -- two things she has in abundance.
Her style includes great pop sensibilities with slight overtones of jazz, funk and blues. The music that comes with the voice is the perfect companion. Savoca handles percussion and occasionally plays the acoustic guitar, piano and clavinet. Her partner and co-producer, Pete Heitzman, plays mandolin, guitars, and bass on a few tracks. They are ably helped out by T-Bone Wolk, who is responsible for the bass most of the time and for the wonderful accordion on two tracks. Only one of the songs includes a drum kit, so the whole sound remains mainly acoustic. The beauty of the sound lies in the fact that it doesn't try to outshine Savoca's voice. The music follows the path of the vocals closely, thus creating a unity full of grace.
Bitter and sweet things in life seem to be the topics Savoca are most concerned about. Sometimes she's tongue in cheek, as in "In Conversation," about a guy who's unwilling to grow up and take responsibilty, or sometimes sad and full of melancholy as in "Rain on a Tin Roof," which is about one of those days when the bad weather is the equivalent of one's state of mind. "Same All Over" manages to be funny and serious at the same time, about people who, being people, do exactly the opposite of what they should be doing: "You drink coffee when you need to sleep / Give away the things you meant to keep / You hang your clothes out just before the rain."
Karen Savoca can inspire awe among other musicians as well as fans, and this CD should help her to make the next step, from a musician's musician to an artist stored deeply within the minds of people with a knack for music with a certain something extra. It's Karen Savoca time, let the spell begin.
by Michael Gasser
Pack in some world beat, some 40's ballad styles with Janis Joplin-ish vocals diluted with Rickie Lee Jones wistfulness, and you have a fair approximation of Savoca's music. Merging stunning electric and acoustic guitar lead/rhythm riffs from partner Pete Heitzman with her percussion and piano work results in an effective soundscape for her songs of love and personal family history. Her fourth release, lyrically much like 1997's Sunday In Nandua</>, is more complex instrumentally, with fine bass and shimmery accordian from Tom "T-Bone" Wolk. On "Runnin" and "In Conversation," Savoca perfectly balances pop melody with insightful lyrics, But the stunner here is "Rain On A Tin Roof," a melancholic acceptance of the losses in life, with the lyrics
now there's oil in the ocean
salt in my tears
show me devotion that weathers the years
everywhere I go
and I don't think it'll ever stop raining
-- Bill Compton
It's been nearly two years since Karen Savoca released her most recent studio album of new original material, 1997's Sunday In Nandua. So expectations have been running high among fans of the Madison County songbird as they await her brand-new CD, Here We Go (Alcove Records).
A rising star on the singer-songwriter scene, Savoca and her longtime partner and guitarist Peter Heitzman have been busy nurturing a national audience. They've made numerous festival appearances, toured extensively with acclaimed songwriter Greg Brown and turned in a stellar performance on MPR's A Prairie Home Companion. Listeners across the continent have fallen for Savoca's identifiable voice and melodic, often polyrhythmic material, which is supported and embellished by Heitzman's expert accompaniment.
New fans and longtime listeners can rest assured that Here We Go does not disappoint. Perhaps the most radio-friendly track on the disc is "In Conversation," a jaunty, uptempo number with a storyline centered around the arrival of a note from a friend. Savoca's harmonized vocalizing on a child-like chorus/hook of "da da da da da" sounds other-worldly, dreamy and completely captivating. With hooks that hang in a music fan's memory and intelligent yet catchy lyrics, "in Conversation" definitely belongs on mainstream radio.
Nationally known touring and studio musician T-Bone Wolk, who has co-produced Savoca tracks in the past, is another star sideman, providing musical shadings via accordian, bass and even tenor banjo on various tracks.With Wolk's accordion setting a devil-may-care mood, "Runnin" describes a free-spirited Romeo intimately familiar with waitresses in all the diners "up and down the coast" and who only looks for his own short-term gratification.
A slow but heavy funk tempo, abetted by jazz drummer Jimmy Johns, pushes another infectous tune, "Same All Over," with enough groove to entice any dance-oriented audience to move its feet. The dramatic "Wide and Deep," on the other hand, moves to a steady sensuous pace, capturing a compelling sense of intimacy. The equally dramatic "Rain On A Tin Roof" glides through glorious piano passages played by Savoca, evoking mellow memories.
With her growing catalogue of top-flight original material and blossoming national reputation, Savoca's career seems more than ready for a boost into the national spotlight. Here We Go may prove to be just the ticket.
-- Larry Hoyt, Syracuse New Times
Karen Savoca calls it "The Miracle of the Shoes."
Savoca and her partner Peter Heitzman were finishing up a set in front of a crowd of 20,000 at the Vancouver Folk Festival's main stage this summer. "I must have said something about dancing, "Savoca recalls. The crowd must have heard the comment as a request. "We looked up, and 10 people right in front were dancing, holding their shoes up in the air above their heads," Savoca says. "Then a hundred people were doing it. Then 500. Before you know it, thousands of people were dancing, holding their shoes in the air."
The picture was as peculiar as it was delightful. Savoca and Heitzman thought maybe it was a festival custom or something. "All Pete and I could think was, 'this is something they do, some strange tradition,'" Savoca says. "We're cracking up, we could hardly finish the song. We walk off the stage and ask the crew, 'Is this something they do here?' They were all cracking up too. They'd never seen that before."
Maybe a tradition will be born. After all, anybody who's ever attended the seductive, beat-happy folk-funk of Savoca and Heitzman has had the urge to move their shoes to the music.It's just that their shoes are usually connected to their feet, not held high and waving over their heads.
So soles may be rising when Savoca and Heitzman perform two shows at Happy Endings Coffeehouse in Syracuse. With their previous work, "Walkin' the Bridge," "On The River Road" and "Sunday In Nandua," the singer-percussionist and guitarist-bassist presented sounds that were good for the soul - and won seven Syracuse Area Music Awards (SAMMYS).
When they play the intimate Happy Endings gigs on Saturday night, they'll be showcasing some material from their just-out Alcove Records disc, "Here We Go." Fans might feel like they've been invited into the Savoca-Heitzman living room in rural Madison County to share a special experience. Savoca wrote nine of the ten songs herself, and co-wrote the other with Heitzman.
"I didn't have a big game plan in mind," she said of the process that brought together the new disc. "They are just songs that are close to my heart right now. Most of them haven't left the house."
"Woman In A Frame," the lovely song she wrote with Heitzman a decade ago, has been a live show staple for years. But the tribute to some of her heroines - Julia Margaret Cameron, a nineteenth century photographer; actress Katherine (Haughton) Hepburn; and Savoca's mother and grandmother - was never available on disc until now. "Fans would come up after a show and ask, "What record is that song on?," she said, "Now I can tell'em, the new one."
She wrote the tender and realistic, "If I Could Forgive You" when she was helping a friend deal with issues regarding suicide. "It's a tough subject to broach, but I just sat down, put a guitar on my lap, and that song just kind of poured out." Savoca says, "I hope the material goes a little deeper every time (you record a new disc). You try to mine some veins you haven't mined before."
Savoca says some of the fun playing new material is in watching audience reaction. "we haven't been able to test it in any way shape or form," she says, adding that she and Heitzman don't use radio marketers and consultants. "So when you put out a new record, you never know what people are gonna latch onto. There are obvious songs you think radio will pick up on, and there are surprises, deep cuts that people also like. You never know who will like what."
-- Mark Bialzac