N ON DUO

REVIEWS

Non Duo, a genre-defying musical act composed of Paul McCarty, former frontman of Wicked Saints, and Marina Gutman. Their musical influences, ranging from Russian and gypsy styles to cajun rock, blend together to form a genuine sound and memorable musical journey in 1, their debut album released in October 2016.

A wistful harmonica and upbeat blues acoustic guitars immediately plunge the listener into a swampy, foot-stomping folk tune in “This One Is For Me” the album’s opener. Tight harmonies between Paul McCarty and Marina Gutman are accompanied by crisp percussion and full instrumentation. “Free” strikes a slightly more mellow tone, and the delicate sounds of accordion chords bring an added zest to the song’s tone.

Beautiful fingerpicking on acoustic lays the backdrop for Gutman and McCarty to sweetly sing a soft ballad in “Dark” which is followed by “Shadows & Lights” a more upbeat anthem that maintains a solemn, sunny countryside feel. Lush vocal harmonies bring a choral element to “High On The Water” and the catchy instrument riffs and memorable lyrical sections make this song a definite highlight of the record.

The album slows down a bit in “Small Things,” a seemingly simple song that is in reality a masterfully complex tune that incorporates unconventional percussion techniques with more traditional guitar patterns, making for a intriguing listening experience. Following this track is “Turn Around,” a lighthearted tune featuring whistling, echoing guitar chords, and energy that crescendos to the very end.

“Saying Goodbye” and “Mama”, the next two tracks on the record, dig deep into the band’s country roots, creating an inviting and warm space with slow strumming, thoughtful lyrics and conventional blues techniques. The gypsy-esque facet of the band’s style is evidenced in “Wild Junkie Dream,” a brooding, mysterious tune that leaves the listener with more questions with answers.

​The album comes to a surprisingly rich ending with “Not Two,” a piano-led song that subtly and quietly brings a hushed tone to the listener. As a whole, 1 is eclectic, original and bona fide, giving any listener a wide variety of sounds and ideas in a relatively short time frame.

 

Non Duo is Paul McCarty (from the great Wicked Saints) and the Russian singer-songwriter Marina Gutman. Together they wrote nine of the eleven songs here, and produced this spirited, acoustic-inflected journey with David Williams, who also engineered and mixed.

These are tenderly projected, lyrical songs produced with a delicate restraint that underscores but never overwhelms the heart of each. Paul and Marina sing together like they have been singing together their whole life. They sometimes sing unison, or harmonies both unexpected but right, and often compellingly hypnotic, bringing to mind the great fused female-male vocals of John Doe and Exene in X.

The focus is on the song always, and on the delivery of these finely-etched lyrics. “Wild Junkie Dream” lopes on a sparse but insistent galloping groove that crystallizes that junkie dynamic of hopeful exodus. “Not Two,” the album’s closer, is an absolutely beautiful song, with an elegiac melody of great simplicity that brings to mind Jacques Brel’s great statements of humanity.  It’s sweetly colored by the two voices, and David William’s eloquent electric guitar lines. “Every moment we are making is true,” they sing plaintively, as that truth carries these songs to an elevated realm.

Beautiful musicianship paints these tracks with poignancy throughout. Of course, getting musicians of the caliber of Chad Watson (bass, mandolin and trombone) or Phil Parlapiano (accordion, banjo) goes a long way. This is an unexpected and beautifully subtle album of many soulful surprises. Hoping it’s the first of many.

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