Mirel Wagner Mirel Wagner
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Bone Voyage Recording Company, 2011.
Mirel Wagner is the real deal, an innovator among imitators. In a genre ridden with cliches she cuts through with the sheer the power of her lyrics and intricately fingerpicked guitar. And that voice.
When I first heard her perform at an open mic night in Helsinki a few years back, it was THAT voice that blew me away. Deep and dark, it is the antithesis of how a young woman in her early twenties should sound. It has those world-weary and resigned tones that make Billie Holiday and Leonard Cohen so appealing. It sounds like the truth.
The next thing you notice are the lyrics. Fond of dark themes, Mirel is still capable of injecting sly humour and hope to the deepest darkness. Lines like “it’s a hard and crooked life / when you’re a dead man’s unwedded bride” show a deep understanding of the blues. A kind of understanding that catches the bittersweet soul of the blues, the kind of laughing-through-tears spirit of Muddy Waters’ classic line “you see me laughin’ / I’m laughin` just to keep from cryin`”. Laughing in the face of death, gritting your teeth not to show the tongue in your cheek. Tasting blood, but smiling through. That’s Mirel Wagner to a tee.
Above all, THAT voice reigns supreme. Strong and dominant, frail and wounded, it covers the whole gamut of human emotion. It almost functions like a black hole, drawing you in. When she sings “your love drags me down / like clothes when you swim / down, deeper down / like the roots of old trees”, I really feel the pull of the water. But it is the way she lowers her voice for the last line that really sends shivers down your spine. Last time I heard anyone do that on record was some time ago. I’m thinking of Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit”.
Yeah, she really is that good.
(excerpts from a text by Jean Ramsay/ Rumba a.o.)
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