SWERVE review by Chris Hisloop
Portsmouth Herald Spotlight, March 1, 2012
To swerve is to make something change direction suddenly. It makes perfect sense then that Joyce Andersen named her latest recording "Swerve!" — an album that takes the tradition and history of the violin and completely turns it on its head.
"Swerve!" redefines the way Andersen's fan base will view the tonal and sonic possibilities of the violin. We're not talking Jean-Luc Ponty craziness here, but there is a similarly spirited celebration of the tearing down of walls on display. The cover of "Swerve!" splits Andersen's musical being in two: traditional folk/roots inspired songstress on one side, psychedelic shape-shifter on the other. Together the two make for a very interesting marriage in sound, offering borderless boundaries and a peek into where a seasoned musician can take their craft when they're comfortable with where they've been, and are open to the venturing beyond the beaten path.
Andersen's self-proclaimed "solo electro-acoustic violin" music was recorded 100 percent live — in the studio and in concert — and 100 percent solo. The interspersed loops, digital enhancements, and foot percussion that flesh out each of the eight tunes are added bits of intrigue alongside Andersen's lush vocal performances. A fine songwriter herself, as is evident from the five original tunes on the record — Andersen also chooses sublime complimentary songs to cover that put "Swerve" over the top. Her take on Steve Winwood's "Higher Love," is a moment where you think, "this sounds so familiar," but it takes you until the second verse to figure it because Andersen has fashioned the tune and composition as all her own.
And then there's Jimi Hendrix' "Hey Joe," (originally written by Billy Roberts, though there is no denying that this is Hendrix' version). This nine-minute mystical opus is a mind-warping creative landmark. Andersen's spin on the tune — taking the violin and transforming it into a burning, fuzz driven instrument of ear rousing revelry — is something you'll not soon forget.
"Swerve" indeed succeeds in transporting an artist and her music toward limitless, course-shifting possibilities.
SWERVE review by Matt Kanner
Wire NH, Feb 23, 2012
“Swerve!” by Joyce Andersen: When explaining her new sound, Joyce Andersen notes that before amplification, singing fiddlers were at the top of the grassroots music world. With the release of her latest CD, “Swerve!,” she seeks to restore the instrument to prominence by honoring traditions while adding new electronic enhancements.
Over the course of her 20-year career, Andersen has released four previous solo albums and four others with her husband, folk musician Harvey Reid. She’s a one-woman band, singing and playing fiddle, violin, viola and foot percussion. All the tracks on “Swerve!” were performed live, in the studio or in concert, with some live loops interweaving the recordings.
Andersen’s diverse skills are on full display in the hypnotic opening track, “Yearning.” She achieves resonant percussive sounds and soaring melodic flights on her strings while bolstering the beat on tambourine. And she takes advantage of her lush, forceful voice to sing with genuine passion.
The next track, “Little Birdie,” is rife with folk and bluegrass elements and features some mesmerizing solos. Andersen has a way of incorporating her own personalized sonic touches into an ancient, time-honored sound.
At first blush, the third track, “Heartbreak,” sounds remarkably similar to the opener, but the vocals bring a different temperament to the tune, especially when Andersen belts out the chorus, showing off the full vigor of her voice.
“My broken heart is open wide / I don’t want to run, I don’t want to hide / The setting sun, the hopeful dawn / Life is a love song,” she sings.
“Heartbreak” is one of three tracks that exceed eight minutes in length. Another is the seductive and sinister “Get Your Swerve On,” from which the CD takes its title. It’s got a vaguely Middle Eastern flavor spiced with echo effects and exhilarating, psychedelic instrumental forays.
Andersen also offers up imaginative adaptations of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” the oft-covered classic “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe” (made famous by Jimi Hendrix). The fuzzy distortion and winding electric solos on this nine-minute rendition will forever alter your perception of the violin.
The disc ends with the stirring Gospel-informed closer “We Will Shine.” Taken as a whole, the album is an ambitious and breathtaking artistic effort, giving credence to Andersen’s title of “electro-acoustic fiddle troubadour.”