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  • Jonathan Widran

THISTLE, Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe

Nearly 175 years since his mysterious death, the life and mysterious, macabre works of Edgar Allan Poe remain a source of fascination in our culture and an inspiration to storytellers, poets, lovers of Romanticism/Gothic literature, his classic poems and short stories a gift that continues to spark our collective imaginations.

His personal mystique and piercing narratives have traveled well over the generations – and now, with the release of harpist, vocalist and composer THISTLE’s extraordinary, transcendent, darkly haunting yet exquisitely luminous album Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe, we can confidently add chamber folk music to the many mediums through which we can experience his magnificent wordsmithing and the fear and suspense he so masterfully created.

With her degree in Vocal Jazz performance, years of studying Indian Classical voice, touring in rock bands and studying and performing folk, jazz, Western classical and South Indian classical music, Thistle Jemison is uniquely suited to capture the balance of heightened emotion and subtle, seductive nuances of Poe’s unique flow. Though she says that “The Music of THISTLE is meant to be heard by candlelight anywhere there is beauty – a garden, a cemetery, a historic theatre,” intrigued listeners who can’t be in those physical spaces just need to close their eyes to experience the wonder-filled soundscape the artist creates over the course of nine intricately detailed tracks covering a multitude of moods and mystical energies – bookended by the dreamy lyrical “King Pest” and the seductively hypnotic “Spirits of the Dead,” which tap the gorgeous upper reaches of Jemison’s vocal range.

While the main thrust of Mysterious Star is fashioning lush, harp and ensemble based soundtracks to Poe’s works, THISTLE’s clever approach to his texts features her own clever lyrical interpretations of his famed short stories (“Tell Tale Heart,” “King Pest,” “Masque of the Red Death,” “The Pit and the Pendulum”) and intimate, inviting (and often dark and tension filled) musical adaptations of his classic poems (“Evening Star,” “The Raven,” “Fairy-Land,” “Mysterious Star,” “Spirits of the Dead.”

Though THISTLE (the singer/composer) is of course the creator and featured artist, THISTLE is actually conceived as a trio that plays on the recording with an ensemble of 11 guest musicians that play such instruments as vibraphone, concert bells, sleigh bells, cello, violin, flutes, trumpet, bass clarinet, mandolin and even a crystal bowl. As resonant as the album is, THISTLE creates an even richer experience in the live setting with a rotating cast of classically trained musicians. Start dusting off those Poe volumes from literature class (or barring that, Google!) and re-read his majestic works as you listen to a brilliant musical experience like no other!


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