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How Sad How Lovely

Audio CD

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, March 10, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Connie Converse was the quintessential musical enigma an artists before her time, forgotten, and disappeared without a trace over 35 years ago. If you stripped away the sharp literary mind, the precision of the songcraft, the bare honesty of her humble recordings, you would still be left with an unanswerable question: Where did she go? Why did she pack her belongings into a car, write goodbye letters to her friends and family, and vanish? Around 1949, Elizabeth Connie Converse dropped out of Mt. Holyoke College and moved to New York City to make her way as a musician. Over the course of the next decade, she wrote and recorded a body of truly unique, plaintive, and haunting work. Some songs she recorded herself in her Greenwich Village apartment, others were recorded by friends enamored of her music, but almost none ever reached an audience wider than, as she once put it, dozens of people all over the world. By the early 1960's, despondent over the limited commercial success of her music, she decided to leave New York for Ann Arbor where, in 1974, Connie wrote a series of goodbye letters to friends and family, packed up her Volkswagen and disappeared. She has not been heard from since. At first listen, Connie's music seems to keep close company with the female folk artists who were her contemporaries. The knack for plaintive storytelling shares much with Peggy Seeger and Susan Reed. Reed knew Connie s music well, and performed a set of her songs in 1961 at the Kaufmann Concert Hall in New York. But Connie's music stands out from that of the American folk revival of the 1950's. Her fluid and disarmingly intelligent poetry reflects an urban perspective, that of a new New Yorker becoming disenchanted by the bucolic tropes of folk music. She is at once a maverick and a romantic, intellectual and spiritual, a staunch independent and a tender, pining lover.

Review

Wow. Lau derette issues one of the year's most gorgeous, mysterious archival releases with this wonderful set of home recordings by idiosyncratic folk chanteuse Elizabeth 'Connie' Converse. Converse was a NYC resident who recorded these 17 songs, all originals, throughout the 1950s in her Greenwich Village apartment. Heard by but a seldom few, by the early '60s Connie grew despondent, moved to Ann Arbor, MI, wrote goodbye notes to her loved ones, and packed up her Volkswagen and just... disappeared. She hasn't been seen or heard from since, and that same sense of haunting mystery does hover around these recordings. Converse was witty, intelligent, and talented -- these songs, while obviously tied with a certain degree to the Greenwich folk sound, rises above such time stamping. These tunes could easily fit anywhere from Busby Berkeley musicals to slowly shifting Hawaiian beaches; in fact, one of the things I love about this record is the way the melodies do sound almost Hawaiian or tropical at times, while simultaneously evoking a landlocked anxiousness and melancholy, like a Polynesian snowed in at an Appalachian lodge. Silly as it may sound, there's no denying one thing -- we're extremely fortunate to be able to hear these songs, and here's hoping that Converse finds some of the recognition and fanfare that eluded her those years ago. You'd be hard pressed to find a more lovely, intimate, and bewitching album this year. Better late than never. Three cheers to you, Connie, wherever you may be. --Other Music

How Sad, How Lovely gathers together the songs of Elizabeth Connie Converse, a largely unknown singer/songwriter who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1974. These lo-fi recordings made at the homes of friends and family in the 50s reveal an artist of sly wit and tender emotion, adept at vivid, sophisticated lyrics and well-contoured melodies. Much of her work has the formal poise and poetic resonance of classic folk artists like John Jacob Niles and Susan Reed (who once performed a set of her songs in concert). Man In the Sky, Father Neptune and There Is a Vine are especially haunting in the manner of traditional balladry. Converse can be mordantly funny ( Playboy of the Western World, John Brady ) and achingly poignant ( One By One, We Lived Alone ) as the mood strikes her. Unfortunately, Converse missed the folk revival of the 60s and retreated from view. How Sad, How Lovely goes a long way towards exposing her nearly-lost work to the wider audience she deserves. --iTunes

Her talent is obvious. One listen to her CD of vintage home recordings, How Sad, How Lovely, makes it clear that she's a highly skilled, even gifted, songwriter. She manages to convey contradictory emotions within the same song, sometimes even in the same verse. Innocence and cynicism, sly humor and deep melancholy, chastity and passion, the ancient and the modern, all mingle and coexist in Connie Converse's world, seemingly without effort. --Huffington Post

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Talkin' Like You (Two Tall Mountains)
  2. Johnny's Brother
  3. Roving Woman
  4. Down This Road
  5. The Clover Saloon
  6. John Brady
  7. We Lived Alone
  8. Playboy of the Western World
  9. Unknown (A little louder, Love)
  10. One by One
  11. Father Neptune
  12. Man in the Sky
  13. Empty Pocket Waltz
  14. Honeybee
  15. There is a Vine
  16. How Sad, How Lovely
  17. Trouble


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