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Grace Hearn & Michael Savage

• Grace Hearn and Michael Savage

A shocking duo of intrepid genius from Seattle, with the degree of brilliance that is illuminating. They are formerly known to many, especially on the West Coast, as Hand To Mouth. Repeated listenings to this recording over a few days have left me more impressed each time. Although many are regularly plied, there is no substitute for fierce, irrepressible talent. And there is a deep well of it here.

Grace Hearn has the voice of the Goddess, resonating a deep expressive power under subtly dynamic control. Only Susan McKeown comes to mind as this complete a singer to my ears. Soaring so high but never for its own sake, soft but never coy, always painting pictures or telling stories. There are, literally, so many good words and so many amazing notes, it's going to take a long pleasant time before I think I'll have truly gotten a real handle on this work of art. This is a far cry from a music product, this is music.

It's an uncanny match, these two. The guitar playing of Michael Savage is right out of this world, so potently original, so evolved. (He also contributes excellent piano and synthesizer tracks, a little organ and Moog bass.) His guitar mastery incorporates elements of many genres, including folk and jazz, rock and blues, classical and new age electronic. But rarely are any of those actually stated in a composition here, they are only implied, all present but not in a way you could put your finger on them. He doesn't sound like, but gives me the feeling of, the way that Richard Thompson plays his guitar, which is not a comparison we make lightly.

Tucker Martine, this producer makes incredible records. (He's been responsible for those of other high artists of the area, Robin Holcomb and Bill Frisell.) He also played drums and percussion on a number of cuts. We need to find out more about his operation, fascinating music happens there, analog.

The songs themselves on MBE are little movies, short, strange, beautiful stories I want to hear again and again. Messy Blue Ending is one of those rare records that we consider a true and precious find. One of the best we've heard in some time. Buy it here. • FG

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