Ever since they first sang together on the 2002 Vanguard album Evangeline Made, I’ve been waiting for Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy to put out another record. Here it is, and it was worth the wait. Adieu False Heart is one of the most touching, graceful and beautiful albums of 2006.
Ronstadt needs no introduction: she’s sold more than 30 million records in a career that goes back to the 1960s and has ranged from rock ‘n’ roll to American jazz standards and traditional Mexican ballads, in addition to collaborations with numerous artists (including two best-sellers with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton) and her own trademark blend of pop, folk, rock and country. I have to confess I haven’t followed her career all that closely in the last 20 years, but I was a big fan especially of her country-rock work in the ’60s and ’70s.
Ann Savoy is one of the key figures in the revival of Cajun music and culture in the past 40 years. She has recorded and traveled with the Savoy Doucet Cajun Band (with husband accordionist Marc and fiddler Michael Doucet), the Savoy Family Band, which includes her sons, and the Magnolia Sisters. She has also worked with T Bone Burnett on two film projects, written a definitive history of Cajun culture and music, and produced that Evangeline Made album, which was nominated for a Grammy.
Together, these two seasoned pro’s make beautiful music. Their voices blend spectacularly, and you can feel the love they have for this material. “Zozo” is a Creole word for “little bird,” and these songs soar and dive through the whole range of feelings involved in all the aspects of love. The title track sees Savoy taking the lead on Arthur Smith’s song (which was also covered by Jolie Holland this year), and the first single is a gorgeous cover of The Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee,” with dual lead vocals and stunning harmonies.
But the standout track, and I don’t say this purely as a Richard Thompson fan, is a heart-rending cover of Thompson’s “Burns Supper,” with Ann singing lead and Linda harmonies. This could very well become the definitive version of this melancholy classic about a lonely old man looking back on an empty life without love. It’s that good.
Other standout tracks include John Jacob Niles’ “Go Away From My Window,” Julie Miller’s “I Can’t Get Over You,” Bill Monroe’s “The One I Love Is Gone,” and the sad, sad French-language “Marie Mouri,” which was also covered this year by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.
The instrumentation is superb, featuring standout players such as Sam Bush on mandolin, Byron House on bass, Dirk Powell on accordion, Sam Broussard on guitar and Stuart Duncan and Andrea Zonn on violins, among others.
About the only misstep is Ronstadt’s solo cover of Thompson’s “King of Bohemia,” which she just doesn’t seem to catch the emotional essence of, to my ears. That said, it’s extremely gratifying to see these two quietly powerful RT songs being covered by such a high-profile act.