Lissa Schneckenburger: Falling Forward

I have enjoyed the American fiddler-singer-composer’s recent albums a lot. Her career arc has been one of steady development, from the fairly uneven first outings to over 20 years ago to the masterful musician she has been for a quite a few years already.

Falling Forward is her first full-length album since 2019’s Thunder In My Arms. On that album, she made a remarkable artistic leap with a full-blown singer-songwriter/country/folkrock hybrid, with almost no trace of her Irish and Celtic style fiddle albums. That album had been preceded by Covers that was mainly an acoustic serving of cover versions (but of course).

Falling Forward is an almost ironic title, because on this one the dominant style is strictly Celtic-British folk and trad, even when the music is her own, and in this respect this is a return to as far back as 2013 when her Dance album was full of Celtic and British trad vibes.

That one has been a joy to listen to, and I’m happy to say that Falling Forward is at least as good and possible even a tiny notch better. Her playing is gorgeous and the tunes are really, really good – I was surprised to notice that they are all her originals because they feel so traditional in best possible sense: unforced, earthy and vibrant.

A special plus needs to be given to the variety between the tunes. We’re given ceilidh-ready dance tunes, reels, songs and a really lovely slow waltz, Someday Soon, that feels so thoroughly Nordic, I immediately connected with it.

On the two songs, Cruel Mother and Benjamin Deane, her strength as a singer really comes through. Especially on the former, a “ye olde tragic ballad” story, her interpretation is perfect, narrating the tale with slowburn intensity, never overdoing it, her nuances and tones in full control.

I find this album so warm and so alive, it’s simply a great joy. It’s great to hear her doing this style of music again, but I also look forward to her further adventures – I respect no musican more than the one who keeps looking for new angles and horizons. But for the time being, on this album, Lissa Schneckenburger shines brightly.

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