4.0 out of 5 - TOP ALBUM
By Jamie Robash
(As reviewed in nomoredivision.com, an indie-music blog.)
As if to test their love even further, husband and wife Kris MacQueen and Livia MacQueen decided after fifteen years of marriage to start a band together. To me the whole idea sounds about as good as playing a round of golf during a lighting storm. However for The MacQueen’s the idea seems a natural progression for each of them to make, sharing now their art as they have their lives for so long. The couple recorded their debut EP The Pearl in the basement and living room of their home in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
And as if some unseen force were trying to test their will and dedication to making an album together, they recorded the album as the street right in front of their house was being torn up by heavy machinery, something that would have been enough to drive most people mad. But the pair persevered, crafting five quiet and lustrous songs rooted in folk and alt country.
The EP opens with the “The Pearl.” Built upon a slender acoustic guitar melody, “The Pearl” derives its power from Livia MacQueen’s creamy country twang, backed by Kris MacQueen’s soft echoes. “The Pearl’s” lyrics are hinting at religious allegory though the song itself doesn’t come off as preachy. The opening verse, “For so many years I've wandered / Looking for any way to spend / Every penny of my unearned fortune / Trying to buy what I couldn't comprehend” suggests a longing for a more spiritual life. On “Tear it Down” the pair sing together in a beautifully sad harmony about a relationship that has gone sour, over a slow gypsy-styled guitar and bare bones percussion.
The pair pick up the pace a bit on the alt-country rambler “Sweet Child” which leads into the slow wielding gypsy-jazz of “Gallows of Desire” which The MacQueen’s recorded with the assistance of Tony Divito on drums, Geoff Smith on electric guitar and Andre Gignac on the upright bass. The MacQueens close out The Pearl with “The Telling and the Show,” a breathy acoustic and heartfelt ballad that once again showcases their beautiful harmonies.
There is no denying that the MacQueen’s both together and separately have an immense amount of talent. But talent alone is not always enough. Luckily the pair also has a lot of heart. It is this heart one hears most of all deep down in the fibers of these songs, and what, in the end, makes The Pearl such a rare and beautiful find.