It’s been quite a journey. Over the years, I’ve been writing and adapting
songs while culling others from a variety of traditional sources. I’ve carried some of them in my back pocket since my early days back in New York City.
I started work on this collection in Paris, where I worked for 12 years as a studio singer and touring musician. Once in a while, whenever I had a bit of free time, I’d record a song with my Parisian musical family. Before I knew it, I had the beginnings of an album. I carried the masters back to the USA and, following a hiatus, brought them out for a listen. I then decided to somehow complete the project. Music always will reclaim its roaming souls...
Around the same time, I had the good fortune to meet up with Colin, who patiently encouraged and inspired me to follow through. Invisible Angel is for me, a fond retrospective of a bilingual, bi-continental life and a free-fall into the future; a portrait of who I was, am now and may yet become, if I don’t change my mind.
Thanks so much to everyone who helped me along the way. Merci à tous!
Listen to Nikki’s interview with Peter Biello on VPR’s Morning Edition
Canadian-born singer/songwriter/instrumentalist/educator Nikki Matheson is a graceful contradiction, a globe-trotting homebody, an unfettered, questing spirit and a disciplined professional, a daringly versatile stylist with a steadfast, genuine core. Her new solo release, Invisible Angel, finds her stretching and consolidating, careening between life-streams, languages and traditions, her nectar-and-nettles mezzo-soprano an instrument of enticement, solace and challenge.
The 13 tunes on the album were set down over a decade and on 2 continents; some are Nikki’s own compositions; all bear her personal imprint. The delicately rueful, string-driven opener, Patchwork, features fine musicians from Nikki’s Paris period including Gabriel Yacoub; it compares a life to a quilt, lovingly constructed and many-hued, but fading. This leads into the title song, Invisible Angel, a self-penned meditation about love and distance, each reflective verse culminating in a soaring refrain.
Track 4, Quand viendra-t-elle?, dates from 1870 and was composed by Eugene Pottier (who also wrote l’Internationale). Richard Shindell’s evocative guest vocal, closely shadowed by Nikki’s harmonies, draws an especial poignancy from the 6th tune, To Lay Me Down. Number 7, Whisper I Love You, is of Irish origin (Éirigh Suas a Stóirín); it is heard here in Rod MacDonald’s new, deeply touching English lyrics and wreathed in pipes and whistles. The 11th cut, It’s Still Raining in Paris, is a raw but wryly philosophical ode to broken love, recorded live and given an especial emotional resonance by Manu LeHouzec’s plaintive, oboe-like soprano sax. The set closes with Olla Belle Reed’s High On A Mountain, during which a lonesome-sounding a cappella voice is slowly engulfed by a hypnotic drone and Nicolas Mingot’s meditative, unhurried guitar.
But the project is also a shout-out to Nikki’s talented and supportive Vermont posse, such as co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Colin McCaffrey, Gypsy jazz mandolinist Will Patton, and accordionist Jeremiah McLane. With a roster of noted New York stalwarts also sitting in, such as harmonica virtuoso Will Galison, Greg Anderson on bouzouki, as well as Nashville’s Viktor Krauss on bass.
Invisible Angel is at once journey and homecoming.