Moira Smiley & VOCO is a visionary blend of voices - redefining harmony singing with the power & physicality of folksong, the avant-garde fearlessness of Bela Bartok and the delicious, vaudevillian accompaniment of cello, banjo, accordion and body percussion. Moira Smiley leads an ensemble of extraordinary musicians who share a passion for spreading powerful, emotional music with lush four-part vocal harmony, cello, accordion and banjo. Original improvisation-built songs steeped in Appalachia and Eastern Europe.
Members: Jess Basta, Christine Enns, John Ballinger, Jessica Catron, Moira Smiley
Moira Smiley & VOCO performers: Debra Dobkin (percussion/vocals), Jody Redhage (cello/vocals), Moira Smiley (banjo,vocals), Inga Swearingen (vocals), Kristen Toedtman (vocals).
Moira Smiley and VOCO: Blink
Los Angeles quartet Moira and VOCO treated all of us to a National Championship performance at the 2007 Harmony Sweeps Finals in San Rafael in May, and "Blink" only expands and deepens our appreciation for this all-woman group. Moira's sure songwriting and arranging touch is everywhere on this gem of a recording, which features her original tunes "Deep Blue," "I Live in California," "Stand in that River" (which also won for "Best Original Song"), "Our time/Shout," and "How Can I Cry." Another winner from their Finals set is "Dying Californian," a beautiful, haunting folk song from "the Sacred Harp" (1859). Other winners are "Katie Cruel," here lightly accompanied by percussion, cello and accordion, "Dance s'loyfn, s'yogn," with Moira's words given to a Yiddish dance song, the surprising "Firecracker Girl," "al' procia" and "esik eso," Croatian and Hungarian folksongs. And, unique to this group, which they showed off at the Finals, are a pair of fun, short "body percussion" songs, "the Boat BP" and "Tryptophan Hand Jive." Moira and VOCO are fast-rising stars, and "Blink," like their Finals set, touches and moves us.
Moira Smiley and VOCO: Circle Square Diamond and Flag
Moira, Jessica B., Jessica C. and Christine pulled off their unexpected win at the 2007 Harmony Sweeps Finals in San Rafael by digging into old Americana and Eastern European roots. The live, eight-song EP "circle square diamond and flag" includes some songs from that magic night, "Carolina Pines," and "Bring Me Little Water, Silvie." The remaining songs are all "Shape Note" hymns, which flourished in late 18th century-early 19th century New England, where hymn books would fill with these uniquely modal, contrapuntal songs. "Garden Hymn" is a traditional Shape Note song, as are "Parting Friends" and "Wondrous Love." "Return My Soul," written and composed by Moira, the traditional Appalachian song "The Cuckoo" and Wm. Billings' "Africa" round out the songlist. A beautiful, touching collection from Moira and VOCO!
Our first introduction to Moira's amazing voice and her all-woman band Voco was their surprising and dramatic win at the recent '07 Harmony Sweeps Finals in San Rafael, CA, which was the first time in many years that an all-female group took top honors. They also won for Best Original Song, with "Stand in that River," and got a huge ovation for the original "I Live in California" (unfortunately not included in this collection). "Rua" is a lightly accompanied, wonderful collection of traditional folk songs, including "Stand," which was "written to join the tradition." Some favorites are the touching Vermont folk song "House that Jack Built," the Irish song and reel "Hawk & Crow/Monaghan Twig," the deeply-felt song against the idea of Eye for an Eye, "A Man was Born," (we believe to be a group original, but the liner notes are sparse), "Charlie Piggot's/Sporting Pitchfork," a hornpipe and jig accompanied by the "flying feet of Moira's friend, Maire Clerkin." The much-loved Irish carol "Queen Jane," another original, "Grey Shore," a "love-across-the-waters song inspired by all the extraordinary old ones," northern song "Maid of Culmore," "Darkest Midnight," a Wexford carol with new text, and "Parting Glass" a lovely old parting song given some new "Inuit and North African-inspired sounds." An amazing collection by Moira and her group, rising stars who we were privileged to hear at their stunning Finals win!
Moira Smiley and VOCO: Small Worlds
We loved watching Moira and VOCO, her talented partners, pull off their surprising win at the 2007 Harmony Sweeps Finals in San Rafael, CA, especially their introduction of "body percussion to augment their sweet a cappella harmonies. "Small Worlds" is a "physical theater" of four voices, cello, violin, accordion, banjo and body percussion on 10 "post-folk" songs, guided by Bela Bartok. Some of our favorites are: "Izgrejala," "Makedonska," "Silverlake," "Summer Has Come," "Russia" (Siberia's Snows), "Out of a Child" and "The Hat-Matchmaking Song." Haunting, beautiful, powerful and mysterious songs from Moira, Jessica B., Jessica C. and Christine!