December 3, 2009
Folk supergroup adds some kick to the holiday season
By Michael Witthaus firstname.lastname@example.org
Winterbloom — the seasonal side project of Antje Duvekot, Meg Hutchinson, Anne Heaton and Natalia Zuckerman — doesn’t play standard holiday fare.
Chestnuts like “O Holy Night” cozy up with “As You Are,” Heaton’s ode to forgiving dysfunctional families. Then there’s “Thanks for the Roses (Merry Christmas),” where an errant boyfriend’s insensitive gift provides the catalyst for a long-overdue breakup. Sighs Duvekot, “When have you ever seen me wear a thong?”
“That certainly was the first folk song with the word ‘thong’ in it that I’ve ever heard,” said Meg Hutchinson, who sang harmony on the track for the quartet’s recently released CD. The group will perform at the Tupelo on Thursday, Dec. 10.
Each member of Winterbloom wrote a song for the album. In addition to the Heaton and Duvekot originals, Zuckerman re-imagined the Yiddish folk tune “Tumbalalaika” as “The Riddle Song.” Hutchinson wrote “The Magi,” inspired by the O. Henry story which, she said, “had meaning in a relationship at a time when I was too broke to buy presents, so I bought the book for my partner at the time. Needless to say that relationship didn’t work out — thus the song.”
Though the disc includes Zuckerman’s playful version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and a lovely Duvekot/Hutchinson a capella duet of “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (Silent Night),” the mood is more December than holiday.
“We didn’t want to make it a purely religious record by any means,” Hutchinson said.
Best capturing this melding of secular and mystical is their cover of “Rexroth’s Daughter,” a Greg Brown song about longing, coping and holding out hope. It begins with a reference to “the coldest night of winter.”
“I was thrilled that Natalia brought that song to the project. I’m a huge Greg Brown fan,” Hutchinson said. “He’s still my favorite living songwriter. Well, there are a few others but he’s way up there … you don’t always know exactly what he is saying. You just know you’re profoundly moved. Within each verse there’s this tiny little world, and somehow they’re strung together in a way that works. It’s kind of like a beautiful poem.”
Winterbloom grew out of an in-the-round show the four did in Cambridge, Mass., at the Club Passim Campfire Festival’s 10th anniversary in September 2008. The one-time performance led to a short tour a few months later. “We were touring in December with no holiday repertoire at all,” Hutchinson recalled. “We realized if we were going to do this again, we’d need some material.”
“None of us really had any expectations going into it, so I guess we were really surprised. We had something fun and pretty and not just another straightforward holiday record that makes all of us cringe, but something that had all this depth,” she said.
Who: Winterbloom — Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton, Meg Hutchinson and Natalia Zukerman
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Road, Londonderry, www.tupelohall.com
When: Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m.