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Baptism Of Fire

Dave Beauvais, of Gemini Full Moon, writing in 1981:

For me the magic began on a long daily drive through the heartland of rural New England.

Commuting from Rutland to Amherst, over farmlaced, corrugated roads that wind and roll and dip like a phonograph record left too long in the sun, you quickly find that all radio traffic to the east has vanished, and a new north-south alignment has taken its place.  Of all the FM signals clinging to the walls of the Connecticut River Valley like a giant waveguide, the most brightly-burning had to be a commercial outfit in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

"The Folks' Station," they called it and they specialized in tasteful, low-key, community-oriented programming which was heretical to all the rules of tightly managed commercial radio.  They compounded their rebellion by giving deep coverage to New England artists recording on small, alternative record labels. That maverick station was a creative oasis in a dismal, disco-bombed wasteland.

So came the morning-I remember almost the exact moment-when I punched in the Peterborough button on the radio, and slowly realized that the new, unidentified female voice wafting through the background hiss was doing some very strange things to my head. The voice was warm, plaintive, urgent and direct and heart-grabbing, finely etched and beautifully modulated and yet absolutely basic, simple, unpretentious.

A sense of the rolling, rock-ribbed New England landscape, a sense of home and place, a feeling of rootedness, being here, belonging to this geography in an organic way, as if by right of birth: these were the qualities the voice carried.  I was haunted. Who was this woman? I waited until the signal peaked on a hilltop, and then pulled over to the side of the road to be sure I didn't miss the identification.

The song was "I'll Know the Time." The album was "Made in New England." The singer was Lui Collins.

Lui Collins? What sky did she drop out of? And where in God's green acres did she learn to sing like that?

The answer came soon enough. Lui was born in Barre, Vermont, and educated in Vermont and Connecticut. She played her first solo outings as a student at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, where she studied sociology and music. One thing led to another, and by 1975, she had teamed with fellow Vermonter/singer/songwriter Horace Williams to do the New England club and coffeehouse circuit. Performance pairings with talented musicians Guy Wolff and Bill Lauf, Jr., followed rapidly.

Their genre was more than folk; for what Lui and her partners had begun to chart was a fluid but exciting contemporary territory that can only be called "new musical art".

The typical Lui Collins concert became-and remains-a blend of traditions and progressions, in which the only fixed elements are consummate musical good taste, and a projection of warmth and authenticity which quickly wraps itself around an audience and makes them feel like old friends. It is a kind of magic and a good dose of that Collins magic is captured fresh and undiluted in the album you're holding.

It's hard (and ultimately unfair) to single out particular tunes for praise in a collection as rich as this. But there are new sounds, and a few new directions which invite special notice.

"Passion" and "Sweet Goodbye" present a boldly innovative mix of jazz and pop currents, and give Lui a chance to swing out as a vocalist with the ability to surprise an audience which knows her best as a folk-oriented singer. The haunting "January Thaw" and "Awaiting the Snow" are perfect miniatures of the classic Collins mood: a keenly introspective, almost meditative lyricism, which seems to be driven at once by the granite stoicism and the transcendent beauty and tenderness of a shimmering New England winterscape.

Speaking almost as from Lui 's own heart is "Baptism of Fire," the album's title offering by Julie Snow. Based in Cambridge, and one of Lui's closest musical and personal friends, Julie is already a quiet legend among younger American songwriters. Her knack for combining fresh, disarmingly catchy melodies with intense, elegantly crafted poetry, is finely demonstrated in "Baptism of Fire" and "Who Do You Love", her other contribution.

There are many more delights to be gleaned and savored here: from Greg Brown's whimsical "Rooty-Toot-Toot for the Moon", to Paul Lauzon's quiet wisdom "Bring Your Mind Back Home", to Stan Rogers' heartfelt and dignified segment of a folk opera commissioned for the Canadian Olympics "Second Effort" (perk up your ears for Bill's outstanding tenor guitar work on this one), to Jack Hardy's evocation of a brooding and mysterious Ireland "The Tinker's Coin", a place seldom encountered by-and seldom revealed to-the casual, camera-bedecked tourist.

Truly (to paraphrase Lui's winsome "Hold the Last Note Out"), the melodies ring in one's mind and heart long after the music has ended. What Lui radiates, in her own songs, and in the songs which she painstakingly chooses to make her own, is an attitude of loving engagement.  Her   music is an unqualified and unreserved affirmation of life, and a powerful antidote to the rampant cultural alienation that seems to be afoot in our times.

Musically, Lui's path has taken her through many dark nights and tight spots that most of us often would rather not face at all. But here we are together. And still, and always: the only way out...is through."

-- Dave Beauvais, Gemini Full Moon

Lui Collins-vocals, guitar & harmonies
Bill Lauf Jr.-tenor guitar, harmonies, & mandolin
Gordon Johnson-bass
Horace Williams, Jr. -guitar & harmonies
Victor Steffens-drums
Ken Lovelett-drums on "Sweet Goodbye"
David Darling-cello
Ted Moore-percussion
Shawn Herman-harp

Produced by Horace William, Jr.
Recording and Remix by Chris Brown
Executive Production by Lui Collins
Recorded at RBY Recording, Southbury, CT
Mixed at Jhana Studios, Newtown, CT and
Earth Audio Techniques, North Ferrisburg, VT
Live Recordings at The Folkway, Peterborough, NH with the Snow Sound Remote
Second Engineers: at RBY, Jack Jones andEvan Jones;
at Jhana, Ron Bacchiocchi and Jack Hanna;
at Earth Audio, Charles Eller and Michael Couture; at The Folkway, Brad Snow
Digital Editing and Sequencing, Chris Brown, Person to Person Productions, Litchfield, CT
Photography by Fritz Wetherbee
Designed by Leslie Fry

Album/songs available for digital download at CDBaby.com

Baptism of Fire
Julie Snow, Julie Snow Music, BMI. All rights reserved.
Passion
Lui Collins, ©1980 Molly Gamblin Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
Bring Your Mind Back Home
Paul Lauzon, Iargolon Publishing/BMI. All rights reserved.
The Tinker's Coin
Jack Hardy, John S. Hardy Music Co./ASCAP. All rights reserved.
Who Do You Love
Julie Snow, Julie Snow Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
Hold the Last Note Out
Lui Collins, Molly Gamblin Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
Wildflower Song
Lui Collins, ©1980 Molly Gamblin Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
January Thaw
Lui Collins, ©1980 Molly Gamblin Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
Sweet Goodbye
Lui Collins, ©1980 Molly Gamblin Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
Second Effort
Stan Rogers, Square One Music, PRO Canada. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Snow
Lui Collins, Molly Gamblin Music/ BMI. All rights reserved.
I'm Looking for a Song
Julie Snow, Julie Snow Music, BMI. All rights reserved.
Rooty Toot Toot for the Moon
Greg Brown, Brown Street Music/ASCAP. All rights reserved.
(with a verse added by Dick Pinney)

Album/songs available for Digital download at CDBaby.com