Reviews of Joyce Andersen's "The Girl I left Behind"

Sing Out! Summer 2001

This is a formidable debut from fiddler, singer and guitarist Joyce Andersen who, at least on this disc, divides her repertoire almost equally between traditional music, songs by other writers, and her own original material. Andersen has obviously done a lot of listening to traditonal music. She offers fine versions of songs like "Short Life of Trouble," one of several duets wiht co-producer Harvey Reid, and fiddle tunes like "Growling Old Man." Her rendition of the lament "When I Was A Young Girl," on which she plays viola, is gorgeous. Andersen's own songs are well informed by traditional music. I was particularly impressed with "Going to Bodie," which she wrote from the perspective of a 19th century woman trapped as a prostitute in a notorious Western mining town. Perhaps the same woman who would've ended up singing "When I Was A Young Girl." Andersen's choices of songs by other writers are also strong. Townes Van Zandt's "Columbine," written years before the Colorado high school tradegy, takes on new meaning, while Harvey Reid's "Show Me the Road," with Reid harmonizing, is beautiful. Andersen's version of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," is soul wrenching. She accompanies herself by plucking out the melody on the fiddle which seems to simulate the lonely sound of a heartbroken human heartbeat. She follows it immediately with a haunting and slow, but brief, instrumental rendition of "The Girl I Left Behind," played on the fiddle. A very effective choice. MR

Dirty Linen, December 2001-January 2002

Fiddler Joyce Andersen's tenure in a wide variety of acoustic bands is apparent on her strong debut CD. Andersen, who now tours with Harvey Reid (who performs on and co-produced the album), provides a delightfuly varied musical stew, with equal parts of original and cover tunes. She seems equally comfortable singing an Irish standard ("Maggie"), country-folk tunes (Townes Van Zandt's "Columbine" and Reid's "Show Me The Road"), belting out blues songs, or performing her own contemporary sounding ones. The playing, mostly by Andersen (violin, guitar) and Reid (guitar, autoharp, Dobro) is predictably tasty on this impressive solo debut.

Bluegrass Unlimited, Rick Anderson, March 2001

On her Harvey Reid-produced solo album, fiddler and guitarist Joyce Andersen draws on numerous folk influences and delivers a strong, sinewy program that varies from traditional instrumental fiddle tunes to stark, bluesy, vocal-and-guitar performances. "The Girl I Left Behind" deals with lots of emotion - her own "Lean Into The Light" is about her mother's cancer, and Townes Van Zandt's "Columbine," though written years after the Colorado high school massacre, is imbued with a particular poignancy - -but she never gives in to it, and therein lies this album's considerable power. When she and Reid duet on the Blue Sky Boys classic "Short Life Of Trouble," or when she sings the traditional "Maggie" (with Reid on autoharp), the effect is hair-raisingly lovely in part because she delivers the heartrending lines with such restraint. Then there's her fiddling, which is equally strong and equally lacking in frilly ornamentation. Listen to this one twice, and you'll find yourself listening to it regularly.

Jam Music Magaizine May 2001

Joyce Andersen is almost too talented for her own good. One minute I think she's a blues singer, another she's a traditional folk singer. But wait, maybe she's a jazz violin player or a singer/songwriter. Is that a bluegrass fiddler I hear playing that high lonesome sound?

She does everything so well. I couldn't easily get a handle on this album's style or theme.It is more like a study of American acoustic music. Andersen has collected a broad range of music in the 15 songs on this album. There are 5 originals, 5 arrangements of traditional songs and tunes, and 5 covers of the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Billie Holiday, and Harvey Reid. There is everything here from old time folk, bluegrass, and blues to swing and pop. The ever eclectic Reid co-produced the album, sings harmonies, and of course plays guitar and a wonderfully expressive autoharp. Andersen also gets delightful accompaniment from Celtic guitar and mandolin wizard David Surette on several songs.

I've only got room to mention a few of the many highlights of this album. One that comes to mind first is Andersen's original new-folk style ballad, "Dizzy With the View." Her voice is so beautiful on this song, clear and honest. The song is also hauntingly beautiful, as it confronts a man who gently seduces and abandons his lovers under the cover of honesty.

Another of Andersen's originals that stands out is "Going to Bodie." A tale of the Old West that follows a woman's life from youthful virtue, to falling for the allure of money, and finally finding a chance for redemption in love. Andersen and producer Reid have created an absolutely powerful piece. It seems to fit well in its historical scene and yet feels completely contemporary in its mood. The music here is sparse and stark with Reid Playing an almost creepy dobro and Andersen's fiddle wailing and crying.

In looking over this album I was struck by what a great sequence of cuts Andersen and Reid have created in the middle of this album. It starts with the stellar "Maggie." The next is a marvelous swing blues called "Giving Everything Away." Andersen follows that with a daring Billie Holiday torch song with just her voice and plucked violin. The sections closes with a perfect trio of fiddle pieces that slide seamless into each other. First comes a slow introspective little traditional called "The Girl I Left Behind." Then Andersen's own "Devil's Fiddle" follows with it classical touches and its new take on the Devil and the fiddle theme. Finally, David Surette adds his guitar to the fiddle, and they punch out a rousing take of "Growling Old Man"

HippoPress, ChristineWelch, Aug 2001

Joyce Andersen has got the kind of voice that could passively persuade large masses of people to do as she says. Any Billie Holiday fans out thre? Holiday make a ditty called "Don't Explain" famous the first time, but when Andersen sings "Hush now," you'll be quiet. I asked a friend of mine today what came to mind at the mention of a single word: Columbine. He said kids killing kids. That's what I would've said, too. But Joyce Andersen's 2000 release "The Girl I Left Behind" opens with a song called "Columbine," reminding me it's also not only a delicate, pale blue flower but also Harlequin's love. With references in this first track to both the flower and the girl, I can listen to Andersen sing this song and still hear symbols that, if only in my heart, refer back to that day, which will live in infamy. As opposed to being good, or okay, or not terrible, this album is breathtaking. Andersen's fiddle and voice are mesmerizing and when Harvey Reid adds his male harmony, not to mention all that instrumentation, the results leave nothing to do but ease back and let out a deep and satisfying sigh. That sigh I was just enjoying was inspired by track six, "Maggie," which is complemented by Reid's harmonies and autoharp, in additon to the fiddle and guitar. Andersen writes a good deal of her own music, too. she wrote five of the 15 tracks on her first full-length recording, including "Dizzy with the View," which is about a girl's date with Prince Charming on the back of a motorbike. "You tell her life is just a dream, and things aren't always what they seem: she says 'what do you mean?' But she sees it in your eyes, a look she wishes she didn't recognize..." Another beautiful line in one of Andersen's own songs is from "Lean into the Light." "The forest cannot claim you, demons cannot name you, only love can frame your sweet face. Elves and angels call you grace." That's poetry in motion.

Victory Review, Jeanette Housner, February 2001

With a strong true voice and expert fiddle-playing skills, Joyce Andersen has put out a wonderful first album. A collection of original songs, covers and traditional tunes, the fifteen tracks cover a lot of ground. There's a marvelous swing number, "Giving Everything Away" by 1920's fiddle-player, Clayton McMichen. And a poignant well-sung Billie Holiday song, "Don't Explain." The traditional tunes include "Maggie" and "The Girl I Left Behind. " Featured solo on vocals, guitar and fiddle on seven of the cuts and in duets and small ensembles with Harvey Reid, David Surette and the Lex Romane/Jon Ross rhythm section on the rest of this sparsely produced album, Andersen handles all with ease and expertise. A gentle honest album with interesting diversity of material.

Showcase Magazine, Foster's Daily Democrat, February 8, 2001
Reviewed by Chuck Ginsberg

the girl i left behind showcases York-based Joyce Andersen's versatility as songwriter, vocalist and instrumentalist. Her stunning, full-length acoustic album debut is equally divided among originals, covers, and traditionals. Folk, folk-pop, bluegrass and swing is delivered with a winning and understated sparseness. The album has been mentioned on several local 2000 top ten lists and the buzz could soon go national in a big way.

A solo Andersen gives full justice to the tender and descriptive "Columbine" (the flower not the massacre) by prolific Texas songwriter/singer Townes Van Zandt who passed away in early 1991. She joins Harvey Reid (guitar) and David Surette (mandolin) for gorgeous and ambiguously upbeat bluegrass rhythm and whine for "Who's That Knocking At My Door." Reid and Andersen then team up for a haunting duet on the traditional "Short Life of Trouble, " sharing with us the fate of the "boy with the broken heart."

"Going to Bodie" is a poignant Andersen original inspired by readings about pioneer women of the 1800's. "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie" is a heartfelt quote from a girl headed for a life of sin and the inevitable tawdry end in the notorious California boomtown. Another Andersen original,"Rambling Man," live with sawing fiddle and winning vocals, aims for that old mountain music sound and hits the bullseye in a song of unrequited love. The rambling man has left a biscuit in the oven for the lonely, still smitten woman to deal with.

"Maggie" leaves the bluegrass, Appalachia sound behind for an old favorite, easily making the transition with a fluent, polished and graceful rendition. Hervocals have no rough edges.

"Giving Everything Away," the Durham, N.H. native's one swing selection, accompanied by Lex Romane (arch-top guitar) and Jon Ross (bass, mandolin); and "Don't Explain," a Billie Holiday torch song on which she holds her own, are genre departures displaying Andersen's versatility. She does both very well, in the former revealing a closet wish to front a swing band, but I would have preferred more of the music that "brung" her to the album. Call me selfish.

Proving the point, Andersen fiddles her way back into my bluegrass heart with a very brief instrumental interlude in the title cut, the traditional "The Girl I Left Behind," before taking on old Beelzebub himself. In "Devil's Fiddle/Growling Old Man" Andersen gives a nimble-fingered medley of two diversions on the "devil box." As the liner notes point out, folklore about fiddlers and the Devil abounds. In any case, she claims that's how she was lured into playing music for a living. The Devil fans outnumber the other side.

"Dizzy With The View" is a folk-pop tune that brings to mind an almost Carole King sensibility (but certainly not sound). She does it beautifully, but also "scarifyingly" displays a tremendous talent for the pop side that we implore her to ignore. "Show Me the Road," a duet on a Reid song, allays those fears somewhat. The song is an upbeat,modern folk plea to lead Andersen back home. (To New England or to traditional folk and fiddle?) The voices blend together exquisitely in one of the prettiest tunes on the album.

"Lean Into the Light" is devoted to Andersen's mother living with cancer for the past several years. More deeply personal and emotional than the rest of the album, the song, while able to stand on its own merits, benefits greatly from the explanatory notes. Accompanying herself on guitar, the daughter expresses her feelings for her mother with the help of the painting on a card she has picked out.

"When I Was A Young Girl" is a traditional tune Andersen learned from old folk/blues/jazz singer, social activist, and songwriter Barbara Dane's 1959 album. Dane is an old favorite and a very well-kept secret of the era, but she is still alive and performing. With all due respect to the source, Andersen's voice is keener and just as touching in conveying the paradox of denying and celebrating sensuality simultaneously.

Andersen began playing violin at the age of 9, and has made her living singing and playing for the past 10 years in the "bluegrass and country bands of her native New England, to the jazz clubs of New York, and in the tour bus circuit of Nashville." Her resume includes a lengthy list of recording and performance credits. She has also studied violin at Berklee College of Music and appeared on the Conan O'Brien show and on stage at Carnegie Hall.

The test of an album is its durability. After a baker's dozens of playings, the sound and messages are as fresh and delightful and wistful as they were when the cellophane was first ripped off the jewel case. She can, and amply proves it on the album, sing folk, bluegrass, blues and ballads. From her earlier extended play album, she demonstrated her way with catchy pop tunes. The legend of Eva Cassidy, cult favorite who turned into posthumous rising star, is that a big label turned her down because it couldn't slot her into a single category. Joyce Andersen has the same kind of versatility and deeper reservoirs of talent. It is only a matter of time before national recognition comes her way. It would be a crying shame if she were to follow the Shawn Colvins and Catie Curtis' into the wasteland of pop music.

Review From Frank Matheis (WKZE Radio Sharon CT) Taconic Weekend/Taconic Publishing, November 2000

Hudson Valley readers and music fans may know Joyce Andersen for playing fiddle and singing with the Vanaver Caravan and Lowry Hamner. When Hamner appeared on the radio show Frank's Picks on WKZE, he brought along Andersen and towards the end of the show and let his side-gal (as she calls herself) perform one of her own compositions on guitar. She was a little timid, singing ever so quietly and gently, a song that was so moving and lovely it startled me. I had not known this side of her. Andersen was a flower bud waiting to open.

Now Andersen independently released her debut full length album, a full blossoming splendor entitled "The Girl I Left Behind", and the whole picture has changed. What a surprise, what an achievement. She couldn't have done it better. An artist with her own voice has emerged, unabashedly stepping forward with music that is at once old and timeless.

Andersen is a powerful interpreter of traditional country and folk songs which she has been playing for more than a decade and now she adds her own rich compositions. She ventures into the familiar fiddle territories of Celtic and American dance tunes, able to hold down a jig and a reel like the best. Yet, her horizons include blues, old-time and new folk with co-producer and guitar virtuoso Harvey Reid, whose presence on the album adds an anchor to let Andersen ventures. Reid provides tasteful backing and I am sure, sound advice here and there. Andersen is a marvelous instrumentalist on her own right, whose impressive accomplishments include singing and playing the fiddle at the same time. Try that one at home. Her new songs are nothing short of awesome and propel her into the forefront of a new breed young women musicians, singer/songwriters who are changing the face of traditional and acoustic American music. Joyce Andersen sings like a nightingale, fiddles like a wild one and writes insightful, poignant and passionate lyrics. She says " I imagine myself knee deep in the musical soup- a young girl, a woman, an old woman- stirring it all up with my fiddle, singing songs, both joyful and sad, of the girl I left behind. Sometimes I've got Billie Holiday' blues in one ear and the mountain singing of Ralph Stanley in the other."

This short column could try to draw a few paragraphs of comparisons to her peers, but it is pointless. They will all know Andersen has arrived, a serious new voice on the traditional scene, deserving of respect and on the ascent. Songs like "Dizzy with a View" and "Lean into the Light", which has Andersen accompanying herself on guitar alone, are a testament to her artistic strength beyond the fiddle. Andersen is simply outstanding, a superb song crafter. This album is a real joy and a major achievement for the ever modest musician, that will delight anyone into the acoustic and traditional genre. Let them soon praise her in Sing Out and Dirty Linen, let the accolades flow, and let her become a big national deal Personally, I'm just delighted and proud of Joyce and happy for her. She found herself as an artist, a musician and a strong, young woman.

From Downeast Reviews

Columbine This cover of the Townes Van Zandt classic piece, is a solo performance by Joyce Andersen, which turns out to be an excellent choice to kick off the album. One gets to hear a clean acoustic presentation of her fantastic vocals, which have a similarity to the powerful melodic vocal presence of Jewel. Her acoustic rhythm guitar work lends the song an exceptional balance of harmonies.

Who's That Knockin' At My Door Joyce Andersen is joined in her effort on this tune by two great musicians, Harvey Reid and David Surette. The vocals on this tune have echoes of Emmylou Harris, with a forceful bluegrass expression. The melodic accentuations from the mandolin of David Surette, along with Joyce Andersen's fiddle and Harvey Reid's masterful rhythm guitar work give the melody a warm rich quality.

Short Life of Trouble On this traditional piece, two things stand out above everything else, they are the exceptional vocal harmonies from Joyce Andersen and Harvey Reid along with the superb instrumental accompaniment from Reid's expressive guitar and Andersen's melodic fiddle phrases. This is certainly a match made in Heaven, as Angels couldn't sound any sweeter.

Going to Bodie This tune is an original piece by Joyce Andersen that is pure Country Folk material. Andersen's vocal style boarders between Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, but still maintains an original strength that is truly Andersen's signature sound. The insrumental nuances, Harvey Reid's dobro for one, color the piece with a vivid vibrance that has a powerful magnetism.

Ramblin' Man This tune was cut live, just Joyce Andersen's beautiful vocals and her intriguing fiddle. The lyrical content has a powerful message, that fits in very well with the "mountain music" melodic theme. For the listener that is in search of some down-home fiddle playing at it's finest, this tune is sure to be a favorite. An amazing solo presentation that displays the depth of talent that Andersen enjoys.

Maggie Harvey Reid brings his autoharp to color this beautiful traditional piece, with a mystic vibrance. This is an excellent presentation of some of the best vocal harmony one can hope to hear. The melody of this tune is charismatic, with the presence and magnetism from the quality vocal presentation the charismatic strength is multiplied many times over.

Giving Everything Away This tune brings some variety to the album with a classic swing fiddle sound that would sure make Bob Wills smile. This Clayton McMichen cover gives Joyce Andersen a chance to display the spicy side to her vocal style. Lex Romane lends his arch-top guitar talents to the piece with some aid from the acoustic bass groove of John Ross. Andersen's vocal presentation is ace as has been the rule throughout the album.

Don't Explain The bluesy essence of this tune, that was penned by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr., is not lost even though the song is just a plucked fiddle with Andersen's vocals. The song displays how talented and creative an artist Joyce Andersen truly is being entertaining while remaining strongly rooted.

The Girl I Left Behind The title track and traditional cover, is a song that Joyce Andersen picked up from old-time fiddler Walt McNew. McNew remembered his Dad singing the old song late at night. Andersen has certainly captured the magnetism in the piece and transformed it into something that is very much her own, with great pleasure for all to enjoy. A short piece that is filled with great musical emotion and expression.

Devil's Fiddle This tune an original composition by Joyce Andersen serves to display the expertise that she has in arranging a well structured piece. The vocal quality leans toward a strong mountain influence, with mild echoes of Dolly Parton. The fiddle sound is very much made up of the talented artist that is Joyce Andersen.

Growling Old Man This tune is made up from part traditional (Gabriel's Song, aka Growling Old Man, Grumbling Old Woman) and a very wholesome dose of Joyce Andersen. This instrumental is an excellent example of what two amazing musicians can do with a traditional piece, they can make it very much a part of their repetoire. David Surette proves to be an exceptional match instrumentally with Andersen, the acoustic lead guitar riffs are guaranteed to fascinate even the educated ear. Andersen's fiddle work would fair well with the masters of the instrument, as she more than aptly displays on this piece.

Dizzy With the View The ultimate in guitar and vocal presentations is found on this Folk / Pop-Rock tune. The simplistic guitar parts, in a roots sensibility, leave room for vocal expansion, which is a winning formula for Andersen.

Show Me the Road On this tune, which Harvey Reid penned, Joyce Andersen teams up with the magnetic sound of Harvey Reid's fingerpicking guitar style. Andersen's vocals are blended with Reid's to a perfect harmony that few are able to attain. The colorful fiddle and guitar work throughout put the final gloss that makes this song virtually shimmer with beauty.

Lean Into the Light This tune another original composition from Joyce Andersen, features her melodic vocals that amaze with a fantastic range. Her complementary rhythm guitar playing lends some colorful expression to the highly melodic content that is the essence of the piece.

When I Was a Young Girl This traditional piece introduces a new instrument to the content of the album. Joyce Andersen's expert bow work on the viola, with a vibrant rich tone, lends an additional depth to this piece. Harvey Reid's unique and charismatic guitar style plays off Joyce Andersen's vocals with a perfection that melts the soul. The perfect ending to what many will consider the best album of the year.

Alan's overall impression- What makes this album so much of a joy to listen to is the roots aspect of the content. The album is not electronically enhanced with fancy audio gimmicks, it's just great music with a full-bodied presence. The album contains dance tunes, or tunes that one can relax to, so variety was taken into consideration when arranging the package. If one can not find something pleasurable on the album, the fault is certainly not in the contents from the album. Joyce Andersen, along with Harvey Reid, David Surette, John Ross and Lex Romane have certainly blessed us all with an album filled with down-home spirit and very entertaining music guaranteed to be a treasured addition to any music collection.

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