Boomkat Product Review:
A decelerated set of adapted trad, rock 'n roll and gospel standards, '1987-1989' collects the best of Langille and Connors' early collaborations, re-imagining well-known songs as spectral lullabies. Whisper-quiet and unfathomably moving, it's essential listening for anyone into Sibylle Baier, Linda Perhacs or Jessica Pratt.
Back in 1987, Loren Mazzacane Connors wasn't yet a household name, despite having already recorded prolifically and played live regularly. By this time, he'd already recorded six albums with Kath Bloom, and taken three years away from music to focus on haiku. He collaborated first with Susan Langille, his future wife, on 'The Dancing Ear', an article about blues and haiku, and when they began to produce music together, it contemplated and adapted all of this knowledge. The tracks were originally released by Connors under the Guitar Roberts pseudonym, but it was Langille who masterminded the arrangements, and sung on many of them. '1987-1989' collects the best of the duo's recordings from 'Bluesmaster', 'Bluesmaster 2' and 'In Pittsburgh', adding three previously unreleased tracks from the same period.
Chuck Berry's 'Wee Wee Hours' is the best example of the duo's ability to transform their source material. The original composition is loaded with sweat and bluster, while Langille's arrangement is a maudlin phantom scent. Berry's barely there at all; Connors' guitar is meandering and affectionate, and Langille's vocal performance is bewitchingly tender. It sounds as if the duo had already been performing together for years, they just merge so coherently. Yodeler Jimmie Rodgers' 'T.B. Blues' is more recognizable, but Connors and Langille stretch the short composition over eight minutes, turning a light-hearted jaunt into a hearty, soulful whisper. They do the same with even more familiar standards: 'Kumbaya' and 'Amazing Grace' are taken from the church to the abandoned shack, their rousing melodies smudged into molasses-slow, noisy hums. The former is so dusty that the vocals sound as if they've been dubbed to a wax cylinder, and on the latter, you can hear footsteps on wooden floorboards as the duo trade sedentary whimpers.
If you're already familiar with Connors' vast catalog and you've managed to miss this gem, prepare to be stunned into silence. It's really that good.