Antje Duvekot coming to Boccelli’s 2 July 2009

Richard Shindell & Antje Duvekot performing at Boccelli's last March
Richard Shindell & Antje Duvekot performing at Boccelli's last March

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.”

Today’s (No Longer) Free Download – Antje Duvekot

antje.jpgThe other day, in between watching the pundits deconstruct the New Hampshire primaries and hearing news of Britney’s latest meltdown, a snippet of a beautiful song came on my television. I recognized Antje Duvekot’s voice immediately, her tune took a moment or two to register.

“Someone is tossing petals in a stream,” she sings, “somewhere someone is standing at the foothills of their dreams….”

“Merry-Go-Round” first appeared on the independently-released “Little Peppermints”; a new (and to these ears, significantly improved) version, produced by Boston’s Flynn, is featured in a new commercial for Bank of America.

If you’re not familiar with the German-born singer-songwriter, that’s a shame.

I first heard her at the 2006 Newport Folk Festival; someone gave me her “Boys, Flowers, Miles” CD – a gorgeous, haunting bit of perfection; hearing it chilled me to the bone. Her lovely voice washed over me like a summer breeze, but there’s a brutal world couched in that delicate beauty.

I immediately predicted great things for her. But the music business, alas, is a fickle mistress.

So you probably don’t know Antje yet, and this commercial, featuring one of her more upbeat songs, is your first encounter with this singer and her difficult-to-pronounce name (for the record, it’s “Aunt-ya Doo-va-kott”).

That’s not surprising, given how hard it is for music not concerned with angst, bling or titillation to break through on the radio.

It’s a pretty mixed-up world when banks and insurance companies are the best friends a folk singer has, but look at what Liberty Mutual did for Hem. “Half Acre” (from the superb “Rabbit Songs” CD) exposed that New York band to a national audience. The ad was so successful that they debuted a brand new song, “The Part Where You Let Go,” on a follow-up spot.

Hopefully, BofA’s support will help get the word out about Antje, who at this point has no label affiliation. I can’t think of many who deserve it more.

Antje’s management had graciously provided an MP3 of “Merry-Go-Round”  for free download, but since the song is now being sold at CDFreedom I’ve changed the link. 

I’ve  posted the lyrics (mainly for the many “someone is tossing petals” search engine requests I’m sure are flying around the Internets right now).

The tune should also be available on iTunes soon. The best way to support Antje, though, is to see one of her shows and buy a CD from her. Skip the middle man, or woman as the case may be.

Merry-Go-Round

Someone is tossing petals in a stream
Somewhere someone is standing at the foothills of their dreams
Someone got a paintbrush, is painting over doubts
Someone opened up his eyes and saw the sun coming out
Someone was captive and found the courage to get off
From a boulder in the well, somewhere the rain has stopped
Someone is finding the place where they belong

Everyday is summer somewhere in the world
And the summer boys are headed for the falls to kiss the girls
With their impatient hands groping honey breasts and curls
They are filled with desire
And high in the hills there’s a baby being born
As forgiveness and peace wash over bruises and sores
People bridging the distance over nettles and thorns

Everyone aboard on the merry-go-round
Some things will rise up so that others come down
If the devil don’t dance, heaven won’t shine
It’s a mighty thick haze and it’s a pretty thin line
If the faucet is tightened up the love won’t flow
If the love isn’t bright enough the corn won’t grow
If the night isn’t dark enough the moon won’t glow

A rich man counting money, a tired man counting sheep
While the safe man counts his blessings, the hungry man has beans
There’s a million people praying, raising up their eyes
To what turns out to be the same god, the same sky
We are slightly scared of death, a little bit afraid
So we celebrate everything we can think to celebrate
We shall sing out loud to keep the hounds away

Everyone aboard on the merry-go-round
Some things will rise up so that others come down
If the devil don’t dance, heaven won’t shine
It’s a mighty thick haze and it’s a pretty thin line
If the faucet is tightened up the love won’t flow
If the love isn’t bright enough the corn won’t grow
If the night isn’t dark enough the moon won’t glow

Prisons will crumble and governments will fall
It’s the order of freedom to be preceded by walls
Cause the truth would be worthless if no one ever lied
So we carry our shame in the interest of pride
And we have all these questions to make us go roam
And we’ve got all this distance to make us come home
As the sun burns, a child learns, the tide churns, the world turns

Everyone aboard on the merry-go-round
Some things will rise up so that others come down
If the devil don’t dance, heaven won’t shine
It’s a mighty thick haze and it’s a pretty thin line
If the faucet is tightened up the love won’t flow
If the love isn’t bright enough the corn won’t grow
If the night isn’t dark enough the moon won’t glow

Today’s Free Download – Antje Duvekot

duvekotbdb.jpgIn anticipation of her performance Friday at Hooker-Dunham in Brattleboro, here’s the song that grabbed and held me by Antje Duvekot – “Judas,” from her independently released “Boys, Flowers and Miles.” She’s since re-recorded a more adorned version for “Big Dream Boulevard,” but I prefer the stark, hushed quality here.

Look for my story on Antje later today, as well as the full transcript of our interview done September 11, 2006.

Thanks to Aurgasm for posting this last year so I could Google it today. Check out their discerning site for more free tracks, placed strategically to encourage future purchases and live show attendance.