In some sense, popular music — even at its most oblique — is a form of oral history, a subjective account of these passing days. On her stunning and contemplative 2010 album, Silver and Ash, New York-based songwriter Clare Burson pushes the envelope of history straight through the cracks of her familial past and into twentieth-century nightmares. For Ash, Burson traveled across Europe and gathered stories of her grandmother, who fled Germany in November 1938, the very morning of Kristallnacht. She returned with songs of exile and memory, of destruction and improbable permanence — and an album that's often as tuneful as Brandi Carlile's music and sometimes as spooky as Giant Sand's songs. When Burson chants, "Everything's gone, but we're all still here," her voice evokes the sweet and bitter understanding the past and present deserves.
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