"This collection of songs for mezzo and guitar is simply delicious; the deep oak of Jessica Bowers’s lower range and the lush honey of her higher range mix well with the steady and sensitive guitar playing of Oren Fader. From Paul Salerni’s Something Permanent with its striking texts concerning the most everyday of every day life to the sumptuous Canzoni Italiane by Scott Wheeler, which transports listeners to the most beautiful summer day in some small Italian village in some time past, to Tim Mukherjee’s Folk Song Settings that take the well-known and re-contextualize it in a surprising and pleasurable way, this is a lovely peek into the truths of humanity through the lens of Bowers, Fader, and their instruments."
Boyd, 8.2019, American Record Guide
"I was very pleased to be sent this exquisite recording of new music for voice and guitar with new compositions by American composers. The musical language and writing for guitar and voice is excellent throughout. With great ensemble performances, intricate and musical guitar work, and soaring vocals, this is a very exciting release."
This is Classical Guitar
"A classical duo that commissions art songs shows a punk sensibility as they do a bunch of songs inspired by the Depression photos of Walker Evans, many included in the program notes.
Eggheads and highbrows have a potential top 40 of their own right in these grooves."
"FORMED A DECADE AGO, the Bowers Fader Duo has released its first recording, featuring “New American Art Songs for Voice & Guitar”—a testament to its commitment to commissioning contemporary composers. Mezzo-soprano Jessica Bowers and guitarist Oren Fader are to be commended just for helping to expand the art-song catalogue to include a relatively uncommon combination of instruments. But the works on Between Us All are also more than mere curiosities, reminding listeners of the genre’s innate power as a vehicle for storytelling.
Fader’s guitar-playing immediately stands out. The use of classical guitar lends a distinctive clarity when accompanying vocals, a quality that can be lost in harmonic murkiness on a piano. Fader brings deliberate energy and intensity to the songs. His articulate fingerpicking accentuates sparkling riffs and contributes subdued timbres as a counterbalance to Bowers’s penetrating vibrato.
The mezzo-soprano’s initial intonation when attacking the consonants is precise and engaging, though occasionally as she extends the tone through the vowels, the phrases lose their emotional punch as the vibrato widens and the vocal timbre gets darker and heavier. The result detracts from the immediacy of the melodies but not enough to undercut Bowers’ gift for conveying the unpretentious, personal stories detailed in the songs.
Bowers is exceptional at exuding charisma while interpreting the texts with emotional sensitivity for the songs’ subjects. This empathy is especially apparent in composer Paul Salerni’s song cycle Something Permanent—set to Cynthia Rylant’s stark yet beautiful poetry, imagining the inner thoughts and lives of people during the Great Depression—and Scott Wheeler’s sobering dream of a song, “She Left for Good But Came Back.” The latter, set to words by Anna Ross, captures the Bowers Fader Duo at its most hushed and musically intimate.
Written by David Claman, “The Enviable Isles” is similarly hypnotic but for different reasons. Claman cleverly juxtaposes a homey modern folk progression with a more disorienting series of chord modulations. As set to the poetry of Herman Melville (“Through storms you reach them and from storms are free”), the music becomes fittingly ambiguous and ethereal.
The album ends, oddly, with Tim Mukherjee’s “Folk Song Settings.” The five-part collection elicits some of the recording’s most poignant guitar playing from Fader—in particular, the evocative instrumental interludes—but the composer’s postmodern approach to the Christmas classic “O Come, Emmanuel” and the Sacred Harp standard “Idumea” feels disjointed. Sung with captivating solemnity by Bowers, the tonal sonorities of both well-known tunes are subverted by ominous, alternate harmonic voicings from Fader.
You’re left with an unsettling feeling of uncertainty, but the esoteric mystery of final musical moments of Between Us All is enough to compel more listens. The Bowers Fader Duo displays an intriguing, polished chemistry, and it’ll be interesting to see how the group builds on it in subsequent projects."
© Daniel J. Kushner, 2019 Opera News