There are turning points in life that don’t announce themselves. That is, you won’t realize what has happened until long after the fact. For singer/songwriter Anne Heaton and poet Claire Clube, who both endured painful dissolutions of their respective marriages, they couldn’t have known that their suffering would inform a future musical collaboration.
The story is that the pair met when Clube attended an Anne Heaton show at Cambridge’s Club Passim. Clube sought out the famous Passim as a kind of shelter from her collapsed world. Heaton was there to perform. They got along so well that they agreed to work together on an album.
Heaton was inspired both by Clube’s poetry and by her whole-hearted, fearless embrace of a new life. When listening to the piano-based pop music she constructed for Clube’s words, the chemistry between them is apparent. It sounds like they’ve known each other for a lifetime. There’s “Until Now,” a sensuous waltz of self-discovery, the chiming “Selkie,” a bit of Scottish mythology made personal, and the opening “Do I Qualify?”, which questions what had gone wrong amidst gentle but insistently-descending piano ostinatos.
Heaton’s piano work reminds the ear of both Tori Amos and Regina Spektor, with the intensity dialed back just a bit. Her voice is a wondrous thing, gently delivering Clube’s lyrics with a breathy intimacy and a lovely trill.
Clearly, the centerpiece here is the title track. With origins in the poem “Dora Markus,” by Italian poet Eugenio Montale, Clube fashioned a story of a woman whose sensuality is her power. Does she know this? An observer tells her so:
Dora do you know how he watches you
As you lie in the grass touching your breasts
Your hand inching beneath your skirt
Your eyes aligned with stars
He loves you ’cause you penetrate his loneliness
Dora is being released today, with a record release celebration tomorrow night at Club Passim. Sadly, Claire Clube will not be in attendance. In Africa in July of 2013, a plane crash took her life. Can a single album be a fitting tribute to a person’s life? Maybe not, but Dora is a beautiful place to start.
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