Serving Up “Mud & Apples”

& WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS Playlist for May 8, 2016

Just a few days before this week’s broadcast, I received the PERFECT CD for my Mother’s Day program. Actually, it is the perfect CD for any day of the year.

Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche

Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche

Lucy Wainwright Roche and her mother Suzzy Roche have just released Mud & Apples, their second CD together.  This recording follows in the footsteps of their 2014 release Fairytale and Myth, which won the popular vote for best singer-songwriter recording for the Independent Music Awards.

Suzzy Roche and her sisters Maggie and Terri first came to prominence in the mid 1970s as the appropriately named trio, the Roches. The Roches, all hailing from New Jersey, were highly influential artists from that era’s folk community. In addition to recording with the Roches, Suzzy has recorded two solo albums as well as collection of musical prayers called  Zero Church. She has also authored two books, a novel called Wayward Saints and a children’s book titled Want to Be in A Band?

Lucy Wainwright Roche, the daughter of Suzzy and singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, carries on the family traditions, although her first career choice out of college was to teach elementary school. In 2007 she decided to pursue music full-time. Her critically acclaimed recordings and performances have earned her spots opening for artists like the Indigo Girls, Dar Williams and her father.

Mud & Apples mixes five original songs (four from Suzzy and one from Lucy) along with six cover songs. The covers are fairly well known songs, but Lucy and Suzzy share some very personal interpretations that make each tune sound fresh.

The recording features fittingly sparse but always captivating instrumentation. The acoustic arrangements allow the lyrics and vocals to take center stage. Suzzy and Lucy play guitar and piano with additional acoustic backing from David Mansfield.  David, who recorded the CD along with Stewart Lerman, brings additional guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, ukulele, accordion, viola and percussion. Patrick Tully provides piano and Stewart Lerman can be heard on bass.

The new CD contains three songs that are especially fitting for a Mother’s Day playlist. The title track, “Mud & Apples,” was written by Lucy as a parent’s lullaby to a child. The song expresses all we can still offer future generations while living in a world filled with seemingly endless issues. Parent-child relationships are also explored in a stripped down version of Stevie Nick’s “Landslide.” Perhaps the strongest cut on the CD, a cover of Patty Griffin’s “Mary” offers an emotional performance of this melancholy observation exploring a mother’s role and perseverance in times of grief and loss.

This mix of covers and original songs works exceedingly well in this mother-daughter collaboration. The luscious harmonies produced by Lucy and Suzzy give each song a fresh perspective awhile providing inspiration with songs dealing with heartbreak, enduring love and memories of the past.

I’ve often shied away from breakup and relationship songs on my radio show. Too often the singer drifts into personal issues that I have a hard time relating to. I don’t want to be part of a songwriters therapy session. Lucy and Suzzy avoid that trap. Their selections are insightful and welcoming, and you do not have to be a mother or daughter to appreciate the themes expressed.

Suzzy’s “Cold October Day” kicks off the CD and serves as a perfect starting point. The song focuses on a relationship that ends in the Fall and explores the aftermath and eventual growth that occurs in the following seasons. The song shows that all will be alright. This song is quickly followed by a version of Glen Frey and Don Henley’s “Desperado,” the story of a cowboy who refused to let love take hold. Later in the CD, Lucy’s “There’s a Guy” is a look at love that endures. The positioning of these songs with their different takes on life, love and relationships showcases the complex feelings that arise from these feelings. The recording doesn’t offer answers, it isn’t meant to. It simply, and effectively, holds up a mirror where we can find something relatable in each song.

Classic songs such as Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Paul Simon’s “Bleeker Street” feel perfectly at home in this collection, connecting us with an earlier era of folk music and showing that contemporary singers can breathe new life into these old chestnuts. There are many gems to be found in Mud & Apples, a great gift that I happened to receive just before Mother’s Day, but one I look forward to sharing all year long.

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About Ron Olesko

For over 40 years, Ron has been a radio programmer with WFDU-FM in Teaneck, New Jersey. He created WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS in 1980, a show that he continues to host and produce every Sunday afternoon from 3 to 6pm Eastern Time.

He’s the president of and booker for the Hurdy Gurdy Folk Music Club in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and is a regular contributor to Sing Out! as well as the host of the Folk Music Notebook blog on this site. Ron can also be found emceeing concerts and festivals around the NYC/NJ area.

A lifelong Mets fan and a rabid soccer geek, Ron is a Red Bull season ticket holder since their inception and will most likely be in his seat when not in the studio.

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