Peia Song Music
If you put Enya, Loreena McKennitt, a diva from the Met, birds, and theatrical Japanese folk opera into a blender and set it to “puree,” you might end up with somebody like Peia Luzzi. Think I’m kidding? Check out “Beauty Thunders” and you’ll hear what I mean. It’s one of several of what I call “earth songs” on her album. Before it concludes Peia’s vocal emulates those of recorded fowls and it flits among Shai Siriki’s driving oud notes. The composition is, depending on your point of view, either jaw-dropping amazing or just plain weird. I'm going with the first interpretation, but whichever side you come down on, you’ll be forced to conclude that hers in a truly remarkable voice. Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the musical ice berg. She kicks off the album with “Szerelem,” a traditional Hungarian lament before she becomes a Japanese bird. She follows that flight with a Scots Gaelic song rendered Clannad-like and then segues to the Celtic mysticism of “Dance in a Storm,” an original, but one that sounds like it was plucked from Ms. McKennitt’s repertoire—complete with climb-the-scale crescendos, dreamy ambience, and world music instrumentation featuring Mike Wofchuck’s ban-the-can percussion. In fact, it feels a lot like McKennitt’s “Lady of Chalot” in style and spirit. The next three tracks come from, in order, Peru, the Basques, and Ireland, and the final two tracks are another that feels Japanese and “We Shall Rise Again,” a quiet, prayerful reflection on the earth, people, and renewal.
So who is this Peia Luzzi who squats in the dark shadows of her sepia-drenched CD cover, a pile of stones meditatively stacked on her right and an enigmatic feathered staff planted to her left? A Celtic chanteuse? A European world music devotee probing ancient rituals? A vagabond Druid wannabe? Nope, nope, and nope. She’s a Nutmeger (from Connecticut) and a Berklee School of Music grad, though I’d wager she is indeed interested in mysticism and ritual. But before you toss her into some catchall category like New Age, listen to her voice. It rings clear and strong, and is ornamented with wondrous and beautiful things: small catches, breathtaking elides, and a range as big as the Andes. Even if you find her themes too abstruse for your taste, you are forced to acknowledge that you are in the presence of an enormous talent. In candor, not all of what Peia does works for me, but November’s album of the month is a place where originality, moxie, and beauty found a muse who is herself a force of nature.