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Carol Noonan Link:

Carol Noonan

Carol Noonan
Big Iron
2001, Tangible

On Big Iron, Noonan takes big risks and reaps big results. It is an album filled with elements of nostalgia for days gone by, poignant love songs and epic songs of bravery. Noonan simply calls them cowboy songs, but they speak to so much more.

The recording opens with the classic “Red River Valley.” The pure sweet tones of Noonan’s voice makes this a standout. Lovely guitar accompaniment by both Duke Levine and Kevin Barry demonstrates why Noonan turned to them to remake an unforgettable song. “Streets of Laredo” is a more traditional cowboy song. I love the idea of a girl singing a song about a gunslinger, turning tradition on its head. On “Wayward Wind,” the layering of tracks of Noonan’s voice is done to great effect. It is a tale of a wandering cowboy, as restless as “the wayward wind.” “Big Iron,” the title track, a tune penned by the late Marty Robbins, is a story song about the Old West. Paul Bryan (who is also the album producer) provides the ominous bass line, which is reminiscent of the drama High Noon and so many of the television westerns of the 1950s and ‘60s. “One Lonesome Saddle,” one of the best cuts, is the tale of a lonely cowboy, written by Maine singer-songwriter Raycharles Lamontagne. Noonan’s crystal clear vocals receive a nice assist by Dennis Brennen. Duke Levine on mandolin provides just the right note of poignancy, loneliness and sadness. Noonan graces “Shenandoah” with feeling and great beauty. Noonan’s voice conveys the wide places and open spaces of the American West. Duke Levine on electric guitar brings a contemporary sound to this beloved classic. And Noonan imbues it with a richness, depth of feeling and undertone of sadness. “Mae Oh Mae” is filled with love, drama and passion, telling the story of a gunfight, a life lost, and a love that will go on forever. It is told from both the gunfighter’s and his love’s point of view. I love this new song written by Noonan. The recording closes with “Unknown Thing,” an old song of Noonan’s recorded in the wake of the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It addresses a “storm” that has taken place, changing the course of events. The final lines assure us that things will eventually return to the way they were:

Though the sky is grey, could be night or day
There’s no light for us to see
What the future will bring is an unknown thing
But I’m sure of you and me
And we Will be right again...
And we Will be right again.

Noonan has gone out on a limb and recorded an album of mostly songs from her youth that speak to the themes of the American West. If you love Carol Noonan—the voice that is a thing of beauty like no other—and you remember the classics of times gone by, you will be bowled over by this collection. Of course this project would not be the pleasure it is to listen to without the talents of guitar god Duke Levine, the sheer musicality of Kevin Barry on guitar, Paul Bryan on percussion and the great Billy Conway on drums. Noonan has always known how to surround her luscious vocals with the best studio musicians. Here’s hoping that Big Iron finds the audience it deserves. It captures all of Noonan’s heart and soul...and voice. —Roberta B. Schwartz

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