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Annie Wenz: Press

Annie Wenz – Winds of the World

Over the years I have had the opportunity to listen to hundreds of albums and CDs that could be categorized as “World Music” and it’s a genre I am quite familiar with. My interest began in the 70s with my discovery of the Nonesuch Explorer series and Odyssey Recordings. Although the recording quality of these releases was more “documentary” than “production,” they did capture the raw and natural beauty of indigenous music from Africa to Bali to India to Persia and beyond. Later, the “New Age” genre began spinning out a lot of material that some would label as world music. After a while they all began to sound the same and I became somewhat jaded toward new releases that pretended to be … but really were not. At the same time others like Paul Winter, Oregon, Ralph Towner, Collin Walcott, and Paul Horn were creating new music that drew much from the indigenous cultures of the world. These artists were truly “compositional” in their approach. Meanwhile David Parsons began doing what Nonesuch and others did but with quality recording processes.

And now we have Annie Wenz with her latest release, a CD called Winds of the World. This CD cut thru the jade and caught my ear. The first few seconds made me wonder, was this just another CD with a lot of native flute and reverb? I new Annie’s CD Poet Dance and was quite taken with that, so I was afraid she had missed the boat on this one. But I stayed with it, and, not to worry, she came through! After a little more than a minute of solo flute this beautiful piano came in, joined by some percussion played by Glen Velez, and suddenly I realized I was not listening to New Age, nor to Traditional, but to composition. So it was nice to hear the album unfold. It was nice to “not” be disappointed. The second tune sealed my opinion that Annie had done something quite special here. The mellow and somewhat muted sound of Steel Drum which opens the piece is followed by a delicate splash of a Vietnamese gong (cymbal-like in its effect).  In the background is the gentle aroma of red curry, evoked here by an electric sitar. Bells, shakers, rain tree, and an Udu Drum fill out the meal nicely.

And so I was hooked. Each song seemed to unfold the same way; a simple beginning or theme, followed by a gently unfolding composition. Butterfly Spirit, the third track on the CD brought back the piano and flute combination and added the dark woody sounds of the cello to the mix. Dreams of Bali (Track 4) adds Kalimba (thumb piano) and flute together (carrying forward the keys and flute combination but in a new direction). This is perhaps the closest to “traditional” on the album. Add a little tape hiss, thin out the bottom end, and add some natural village sounds, and you’d have a Nonesuch Explorer album.

And so, … on and on the CD played.  By the time I arrived at the last tune, a very pretty and delightful Korean Love Song, I knew I’d be writing this review. 

    Annie plays the lion's share of instruments on the CD including a variety the Native American flutes, bamboo flute, Balinese flute, and Slovakian flute (fujara). I had to pull out my book of world instruments to get some info on that one. She plays piano, kalimba, and sitrum (an Egyptian rattle-like instrument that dates back to the time of Nefertari). She is also featured on guitar as well as a variety of percussion instruments ranging from the sweet and supple sounds of Steel Drum to a variety of other rattles, gongs, bells, cymbals, and drums including, of course, the djembe, which many of you may have seen her play at the various festivals to which we all seem appear. Accompanying her are Tom Prasada-Rao on and electric sitar and violin, Glen Valez on percussion, and Vernon David on cello. Recording engineers were Norman Blain, Tom Prasada-Rao, and Mark Hafner, and mastering by Jim Hemmingway. I mention all because they did a superb job blending this meal together. The layering of sounds worked beautifully and to the greater good of the music, making these instruments sound as if they had been played together for millennia.

So, if you’re a fan of either the traditional sounds of the global village or if you’re a fan of Oregon, Paul Winter and company, I think you’ll like this one. I know I do.

Bill Beckett

William A. Beckett
Program Director
Gainesville, FL
William A. Beckett - WUFTWJUF Radio Program Director (Dec 11, 2005)
...the Valley’s purveyor of internationalist folk mines Latin, African and distinctly American idioms...
The Iron Horse Music Hall- Northampton, MA
(About "Winds of the World")

"Hey Baby

It’s F!%$&*!!!
You are amazing! A lust for life like Vincent. You are truly an inspiration, a constant flow of energy like rapids down the Colorado...
It’s not just WHAT she does... it’s the WAY she does it!...
Fred Kaiser - Philadelphia Folk Festival Producer
"Poet's Dance"'s all beautiful & powerful...People love do I!...
Tommy Sands~ Performer/Songwriter/Activist
If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, does it also reside in the ear of the listener? And if it does reside there, would I then be incredibly presumptuous in declaring Annie Wenz's Time is Magic to be an inarguably beautiful album? Yes and yes? Oh well. I've been called worse things.
Time is Magic is an inarguably beautiful album. Opening track "Dance Under the Moon" perfectly frames Wenz's unique musical nether-world, which is bordered by traditional guitar-based folk and various Native/Latin American musical styles. "Moon"'s arrangement is kick-in-the-solar-plexus surprising (it sits you down and sucks your wind out with an befuddled, involuntary ahhhhhhh when you hear it the first time)--but it prepares you for the album's rich melange of acoustic guitar, fiddle, cello, flute, percussion and even (gasp!) an electric lead line on "Wild Horses", which ends up sounding like Richard Thompson/Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention.
Wenz is also an evocative lyricist and story-teller: lines like "Richard couldn't live in the flats anymore/the devil lived in his stove and the creaks in his door were the voices of hell come to haunt him" make you want to listen to songs that were already wonderful when you were just hearing them. Does it get much better than this? Maybe. Does it get more beautiful? No. Are you ready to call me presumptuous? Listen to the album before you do.
Metroland/ Albany,NY
“If you don’t ‘get’ Annie Wenz, you’re not fit to live!!!”
Steve Seskin - Performer/Songwriter Extraordinaire
...potent musical brew with timely subjects in her lyrics...sliding slurring vocals and rhythmic guitar work...musically traveling down a road that has been lightly used and is very refreshing to hear.
Frogbelly Local /Hartford, CT
...Annie Wenz...The Polish Gypsy Folk Goddess...
Ellen Hayman - KFAI St Paul,MN/ KUMD/KAXE/KAOS
It was truly a pleasure to have you grace our final performance with your affable way and energetic spirit! You have a special way of merging the communion of audience & artist as was evident by the many comments raving about your performance.Your rhythms and flute playing were a rare treat. Thanks so much for the magic!...
The Driftwood Coffeehouse, Cape Cod, MA
You could sense that this show was going to be different...keeping time with rattles wrapped around her ankles as she pulled archetypal melodies from her flute...Annie is a gifted folk diva and multi-instrumentalist blessed with a crystalline voice, a keen ear for melody, an uncanny feel for rhythm and a strong sense of social justice... Wenz is an intuitive & sensitive songwriter who has crafted a body of work remarkable both for the lyrical insights she presents as well as for the deliciously eclectic way in which she offers them. Her travels as a musician, student, nurse, teacher, social worker & volunteer have served as key inspirations for her material... the resulting sonic mix was haunting & powerful...
J. Eric Smith - Metroland/ Albany,NY
....Annie is without a doubt the best storytelling musician I have ever heard! She is a thrill seeker pushing the edge of acceptable conduct... climbing within a few hundred yards of an erupting volcano, kayaking, running with women of the Penobscott Indian tribe, and then writing about it in the most powerful lyrics I have heard ...Annie is a passionate woman who has an incredible ability to translate her passions in the limited format of a song into a story that can be seen as well as heard...
the music must truly come from the depths of her soul...
James Henry - The Recorder /Greenfield, MA
Annie Wenz's music draws on the folk traditions uncovered in her travels around the Globe.
Her songs roll East to West effortlessly as a backporch swing. The journey is a spirited one, the campfire magic caught magnificently by production which polishes the performances sharp as diamonds. Each song is a crafted jewel, a vibrancy of colours shifting from the snowy Saskatoon Sky, a love song of breathtaking beauty to Malcolm's World where the invite is to kick the sandals off and do a Carribean snoopy dance. The feeling of the album is of a poet on the road, blending in with the people of different lands from South America to Ireland. Annie Wenz has stayed a spell, embraced the people, understood their plight, shared songs and enriched herself as much as her new found friends: The late Phil Och's Bracero is just Annie & Tom Prasada Rao's guitars underpinning a vocal duet that is a brooding burner to peel paint. Poet's Final Dance is an awesome tribute to Al Grierson "friend, brother, poet, monk, wiseass". The ringing guitar introduction stops the breath and Annie Wenz's voice melts the senses. Annie Wenz is also a registered nurse. She is valued for her educational music programmes to make a difference to young people's lives. She tours festivals, & venues throughout America and around the world. If we are lucky maybe one day she'll grace our shores with her poetry and song.
Ragamuffin Mike Plumbley - From Vapour Trails Radio~ Isle of Wight/England
...”Time is Magic” a testament to Wenz’s unflagging optimism and musical magic... touches the human spirit...explores life’s triumphs,tragedies,musings and mysteries...the ”Little White Lies” of domestic violence,and untamed hearts of wild women...
Valley Advocate/ Northampton ,MA
Annie...blends voice & instrumentation to create a pervading sense of peace...a spiritual feel...Wenz is able to bring up difficult issues in her lyrics...lets the words float with tranquil music to send a subtle message that is all the more powerful
Dirty Linen
From the vivid strains of the first cut “Dance Under The Moon” (Bajo De La Luna),” Wenz’z forceful and resonant voice seems to meld perfectly with the bold arrangement of acoustic and slide guitars, bongos and congas and bass backing vocals. Every song is original, and the artist has created an instrumental world for them that is attuned to their emotional rhythms and specific details. In “Touch the Ground”, falling in love is described in a metaphor that spans the entire tune and retains it’s echoing power long after the music has ended.- (LP)
Sing Out Magazine
From the Opening cut, "Dance Under the Moon", with it's slide guitar & ethereal chanting, to the closer, "When Horizon Calls", with churning tribal rhythms, Annie Wenz's "Time is Magic" draws you in and takes you along on a magical musical journey. Featuring some incredible and sensitive playing from a wide variety of talented musicians- guitarist Brooks Williams and percussionist Jose Gonzalea to name a few- "Time is Magic' is a very special album.
The title song recalls Joni Mitchell's "Hejira" with understated percussion and Christopher Murch's fretless bass. The cello and viola arrangement on "Richard" blend beautifully with Wenz's guitar and vocal. But the all star cast and eclectic instrumentation never detract from the power and beauty of Wenz's entrancing vocals and wonderful songs. Wenz is equally effective on the celebratory "When Horizon Calls" and the delicate folk/new age songs like "Touch The Ground", "Richard", and "Unspoken Words"
Paul Burton - Bravo Arts Magazine