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Lac La Belle | Bring On the Light

album review by John Powell

Lac La Belle | Bring On the Light

There’s something to be said for folk duos; a streak of them still roam America in search of neo-folk platforms for quirky lyrics, simple music, and many of them are multi-instrumentalists. The same goes for Lac La Belle, composed of Jennie Knaggs and Nick Schillace. Instruments range from accordion and ukulele to 12-string guitar and banjo. It’s all kept rather quiet on Bring On the Light, a series of easy flowing neo folk.

Lyrically, Lac La Belle has a step up from many of their contemporaries. On the opener, for instance: “You thought that someone would just give you the key to a geographic secret.” Simplistic, yes, but syntactically stimulating.

Certain songs have catchy choruses or reprises. On “A Fine Line” Jennie sings soothingly over banjo and guitar, and when she gets to, “I’ll meet you on the other side,” it whips up into sweet release. Very fun, indeed. Musically speaking, sometimes they’re just as captivating. On “Housebreaker”, Nick not only takes lead vocals, but the banjo ditty is charming.

“To the Sun” has an old school, almost Huckleberry Finn feel to it, just a folk song about nature. However, in the process, Lac La Belle loses it’s lyrical footing. “Take what treasures do abound,” Nick sings as if we still say “abound” in everyday conversation. “Seeking paths but known too few,” he adds later, and the old-timey lyrics feel forced.

Then again, not all songs need to break the mold or stagger the senses. Some songs are very nice to listen to. Lac La Belle pulls this off often. “Brighter Than Light” is a lullaby on glass and very pretty.

Both Jennie and Nick don’t sing to their strengths. Jennie shines on “Brighter Than Light”, where the melody is made up of longer phrases and she can sing out in her soprano. Conversely, Nick performs better when he can be rawer, heavier, and not so tempered. Much of Bring On the Light searches for a near-southern drawl combined with strained enthusiasm, which appear, once again, forced.

Is it a bad thing? Not always, but Bring On the Light is no folk legend of an album. It’s thematic and interesting, and perhaps the start of a longer journey for these two. Some audiences will love this neo-flirtation with the genre, while the wider audience will be waiting for some kind of culmination that doesn’t happen.

Bottom line: A decent folk record by a competent male/female duo that trade lead vocals and instruments.


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