Storm in the East

Lily Storm – If I Had a Key to the Dawn: Love Songs and Laments From Eastern Europe
Lily Storm

If I Had a Key to the Dawn: Love Songs and Laments From Eastern Europe (Songbat Records SB701, 2009)

It’s amazing how far curiosity can take a person. Lily Storm was a teenager in Tacoma, Washington when she decided, for reasons that defy even her own understanding, to check out some recordings of Eastern European music found in the local library. Before long she’d ditched plans of working in the fields of math and physics and opted to pursue singing instead. A stint touring the U.S and Europe with the San Francisco-based vocal ensemble Kitka followed, prompting Storm to further investigate the nuances of folkloric music from Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Russia, Greece, Armenia and beyond.

The result is her quietly spellbinding debut CD, on which Storm interprets traditional songs in a manner that will have you questioning her American background. She does these pieces a great service linguistically, emotionally and in all other respects, not merely imitating the musical characteristics of the various regions but subtly re-casting them to suit her own considerable vocal prowess.

Mark well the word “Laments” in the title, for most of the songs deal with sadness and are rendered accordingly. In fact it’s a bit startling when the eccentric melody and loopy vocal of track 11, a Romanian ditty called “Green Leaf of a Pear Tree,” jolts the mood from dream state to Roma raucousness. Storm sings to minimal accompaniment (sometimes none) and the sparseness not only allows her to really stretch out, but also lets the perfectly suited tones of accordion, violin, duduk, kaval and such add even more heart. I do hope her next release has a few more uptempo songs, but for now it feels just fine to bask in this impressive first go.

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