For many watching Richard Shindell’s performance at Boccelli’s last March, the high point came when Antje Duvekot joined him on stage.
Her airy voice hushed the room as the two worked through “Vertigo” – a song that typifies the beauty and danger coursing through much of Duvekot’s work.
Love is a balancing act at dizzying heights, with survival uncertain, “but I am teaching myself to be brave,” she sang.
Those who hungered for more of the German-born folksinger that night will get their wish when Antje Duvekot (pronounced Aunt-yuh Doo-va-kot) headlines Boccelli’s on the Canal next Thursday (July 2).; Chris O’Brien opens.
Duvekot’s second studio album, aptly titled “The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer,” more than delivers on the promise of the many accolades Duvekot has received since arriving on the Boston music scene.
She looks inward on songs like “Lighthouse” and “Scream,” and sees a lot of sadness – “there’s not too many people that I really call my friends” she says at one point. But she holds out hope for redemption on the sweet, spare “Coney Island” when she asks her lover to “kiss me on the mouth like it was the first time and I will pretend to resist /‘cause in a world so full of troubles I think that we’ve had enough.”
The self-reflection is a departure from earlier, topical songs like the hard-hitting “Judas,” which depicts the slow progression of an abused teenager into a Columbine-style killer.
“Jerusalem,” a standout track from Duvekot’s first official studio album (“Big Dream Boulevard”) painted the Israel/Palestine conflict as hopeless and endless, with both sides “casting poisonous seeds for your children to reap out of the rubble of hatred.”
“I still don’t know exactly why I am so fascinated by darkness and suffering,” Duvekot said in 2006. “I guess because it’s so incomprehensible, when you process sad news like a shooting or a war, you can’t just wrap it up and find closure by just hearing about it.”
“You want to dissect it and interact with the emotions, because they’re really powerful,” she continued. “I always felt like I needed to process that by creating or talking about it some more. To handle it, that’s something I need to do. I can’t really tell you why – it’s real and serious and important to me.”
Shindell produced the new record, but didn’t bring a heavy hand to his role. “With a voice like hers, and songs as good as these,” he explains, “a producer … just tries to get out of the way, to do no harm, and to let the artist speak for herself.”
Four of the eleven songs on the new album appeared on earlier releases, and it’s a testament to Duvekot’s artistic maturity how fresh they sound today.
The buoyant “Merry-Go-Round” has been re-recorded twice since appearing on the self-released “Little Peppermints” in 2002 – most recently, for a Bank of America commercial.
The travelogue song “Long Way” (also from “Little Peppermints”) gets a fresh update with help from one of Duvekot’s personal heroes, John Gorka. Gorka also sings backing vocals on “Reasonland,” reworked (along with “Dublin Boys”) from 2005’s indie release “Boys, Flowers and Miles.”
Folk world luminaries who have showered praise on Duvekot include Seamus Egan, who produced “Big Dream Boulevard”, and covered four of her songs with his band Solas. Singer-songwriter Ellis Paul signed her to his Black Wolf Records label, and has provided musical support in the studio.
Noted rock critic Dave Marsh called Duvekot “the whole package,” adding that that the last time he’d been so moved by an artist was upon first hearing Patty Griffin.
The praise for Duvekot’s probing and knowing work could fill many more pages.
“When I first heard Antje I knew I was witnessing something very special,” said Neil Dorfsman, who’s produced Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Sting. “She creates an entire, detailed world in verse, and takes you there with beautiful and understated melody. Her songs are stunning paintings of color and shade and always generate the heat and light that real art should. In an un-poetic and ‘in your face’ world, she is lyrical and subtle.”