More than a sweetly aging lady of rock �n� roll, Linda Ronstadt has roamed the landscape of popular music with a handful of searchers drawn to its roots � the genuine stuff that defines humanity. As Paul Simon sought out African artists for Graceland, and Ry Cooder discovered Cuba in resurrecting The Buena Vista Social Club, so Ronstadt has explored Mexican music and early Rhythm & Blues standards by the likes of the Everly Brothers, for example �When Will I Be Loved?� � music rooted in close-harmony duets of Appalachia. Now we find her in a tender groove, inspired by the Cajun prairie. The new release on the Vanguard label is The Zozo Sisters: Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy � Adieu False Heart.
�Zozo� translates as �little bird� in Creole French; listening to Ann Savoy trading harmonies with the irrepressible Lady Linda conjures imagery of the wings of a dove. The melodies rise and flow with voices like sad angels.
Adieu False Heart is not the romping Cajun dancehall sound, although Savoy is steeped in that tradition too. A transplanted Virginian, long a resident in Eunice � where she enjoys a creative partnership with her husband, the esteemed accordionist Marc Savoy � she published a classic study, Cajun Music: A Reflection of A People, in 1984. �The simple, unassuming men and women who originally played the music are turning into heroic idols as their stories grow and explode into exciting Technicolor by years of stories passed on,� she wrote.
In recent years Savoy has used her past cultural excavations to fashion an evolving, more personal sound. In her last CD, Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music, she drew Ronstadt, country-western lyricist Rodney Crowell and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, among others, into a recording of deep Louisiana. Linda came back.
Adieu False Heart has a spare, womanly essence of love-hurts-passed-on, a gathering of lyrics that circle emotional territories with poetic depth. Ronstadt demonstrates her stunning range as a vocalist, alternating in the lead and harmony roles, the ineffable warmth of her voice melding with Savoy�s pining ethereal strains.
Savoy sings lead on the title cut (an Arthur Smith composition) in a cool persona, cutting distance from the loss, like a stoic peering into the pool of life:
Adieu, false heart
Now we must part
May the joys of the world
Go with you � but never
Will I believe you.
The musicians on Adieu False Heart cast a weave of instrumental lines, which deepen the lyrical texture of sadness and hope, loss and recovery.
I would be a sinner in the temple of music to pass over the litany of musicians who came together on this superb recording: Playing acoustic guitar on different cuts are Sam Broussard, Buddy Miller, Joel Savoy, Bryan Sutton, Chas Justus and Ann Savoy herself; with appearances on upright bass we have Dirk Powell, Eric Frey and Byron House; Andrea Zonnn on violin; Kristin Wilkinson and John Catchings on cello; Christine Balfa on triangle; accordionists Tim Lauer and Dirk Powell; on fiddle Stuart Duncan, Kevin Wimmer and Joel Savoy; David Schnaufer on dulcimer and bowed dulcimer; Kristin Wilkinson and Andrea Zonn on viola; and Sam Bush on mandolin.
Chas Justice is the composer on �Rattle My Cage� one of several songs that give Linda Ronstadt ample room to roam the vessels of an aching heart:
Won�t you rattle my cage,
Won�t you come to me,
Sing your happy song?
Make me feel
I�m not trapped forever,
Make these winter days
Seem not so long.
Ever the rock traditionalist, Ronstadt takes a song most have forgotten, �Walk Away Renee� and stretches the tissue like only she can do.
Ronstadt�s celebrity should put Adieu False Heart to a threshold where critics and some radio stations will give this work the airplay it deserves. Ann Savoy�s voice is quite distinguished in its own right, and she draws on the deep pull of memory in Acadian music to stamp these songs in melancholy splendor.
With a string of stellar Cajun and Creole recordings behind her, Savoy worked on the musical track for the new film version of All The King�s Men. Linda Ronstadt�s collaboration with Aaron Neville some years back helped launch him into a loftier commercial sphere; let�s hope that happens with Ann Savoy, too � and, that we see a lot more of the Zozo Sisters together.
Adieu False Heart is the kind of record you want to play on a slow Saturday afternoon with good Bordeaux at hand and enough time to let the seamless match of lyrics and music sink slowly to the soul.
The producer for Vanguard is Steve Buckingham � I�d bet a few acres that the boy feels pretty good about all this.