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by: Jon Pareles

"Adieu False Heart" (Vanguard) * * *

Linda Ronstadt collaborates well, by sweetly underplaying her voice. Her duet partner for “Adieu False Heart” (Vanguard) is Ann Savoy, a luminary in Cajun music. Although the album does include a few songs in Cajun French and some fiddles, it’s not a genre exercise. Instead it’s a chance for two clear-voiced sopranos to harmonize on lovelorn Celtic-rooted songs in crystalline arrangements. A sweetheart with a French name shows up in the most unlikely one: “Walk Away Renee.”

The quick assumption about this collaboration is that Ronstadt teamed up with Cajun music historian and singer Ann Savoy for an exploration of the music of Southwest Louisiana. But though there are Creole and Cajun touches on this album (in stores today), for the most part the women immerse themselves in the folk music of other regions, from the Kentucky bluegrass of Bill Monroe to the Celtic balladry of Richard Thompson.

The goal, as set out in the Arthur Smith title tune, is the shedding of all artifice, calculation or intellectual distance from the most powerful matters of the heart. Ronstadt is clearly the more accomplished singer, bringing her burnished, high soprano and art-song minded attention to detail into harmony with Savoy's unadorned alto, which is closer in spirit to the plain-folk origins of this kind of music.

They've chosen songs that detail great loves in life, most often the ones that got away, walked away or blew apart. Thompson's "King of Bohemia" gives the view of a parent powerlessly watching a child become all too aware of the pain-filled ways of the world, and Julie Miller's "I Can't Get Over You" rhapsodizes on the ache of loss that will never go away.

Their spare reading of the Left Banke's 1965 hit "Walk Away Renee" brings the lyric's ache into full relief, and allows Ronstadt a brief return to the pop-rock milieu from which she emerged and where she spent so many rewarding recording sessions in the '60s and '70s. It's also emblematic of the opportunity the album gives her to work in more intimate surroundings than the big-band, mariachi and other grand-scale projects that have occupied most of her time since the '80s.

This is one of those niche records that isn't going to storm the airwaves anywhere except public radio, but it will slake the thirst of anyone interested in music speaking quietly from, and to, the heart.

by: Elysa
Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy, Adieu False Heart (* * * 1/2)

Pop chameleon Ronstadt and Cajun star Savoy possess two of the purest, sweetest, most satisfying voices in contemporary music. Blended together, they’re the equivalent of farm-fresh butter in a market full of processed imitation spreads, and this rootsy collection offers plenty of warm, nourishing showcases for their individual and combined gifts. From the sassy French Creole take on Plus tu Tournes to a spare, radiant reading of Richard Thompson’s Burns’ Supper to a wistful version of Walk Away Renee that recalls Ronstadt’s Trio recordings with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, there isn’t a false note here.


by: Thomas Kintner

Ronstadt, Savoy In Fine Form

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy first collaborated in 2002 on a tribute compilation to Cajun music, where Savoy is one of the leading modern lights. Their partnership comes into full bloom with "Adieu False Heart," which tours a subtle range of folk styles in lovely fashion, adding up to a mellow, elegant piece of teamwork in which each artist's contributions shine through.

Ronstadt has made a career out of surveying a variety of disciplines, and her flexibility serves her well as she draws sheen and substance from the lyrics of Richard Thompson's "King of Bohemia" atop a soft bed of strings. Savoy shows off her vocal strengths in equally sure-handed fashion with Thompson's "Burns' Supper," filling the tune with measured softness without ever sounding drowsy.

Savoy's scholarship in bayou music shines in the jaunty, harmony-rich "Plus Tu Tournes" and the willowy "Parlez Moi D'Amour," but the set also ventures into gently crafted mountain music for Bill Monroe's "The One I Love Is Gone."

For all the genres it touches, the collection's common thread is its measured exploration of acoustic music and the placement of lustrous vocals inside delicately crafted, first-rate musical vessels.

by: Christian John Wikane

A String Affair

Linda Ronstadt is not a typical recording artist. Thankfully. Even a cursory review of her discography between 1969 and 2006 points to her successful sampling of diverse musical styles: standards with Nelson Riddle, folk, Motown, Mexican rancheras, the “trio” albums with Dolly Parton and Emmylous Harris, jazz, new wave, Broadway, and, most famously, Southern California pop/rock. Never satisfied to merely appropriate current trends, Ronstadt instead chooses to explore music that further shapes and sharpens her exquisite voice.  Two years following her fourth standards album, Hummin’ to Myself, Linda Ronstadt joins noted Cajun musician and scholar Ann Savoy on Adieu False Heart, a technically perfect, emotionally wrought, if overly melancholy, album that melds ballads, Cajun music, and flourishes of bluegrass into one delicious gumbo.

Ann Savoy (pronounced “sa-vwah") is an ideal singing partner for Ronstadt, having written Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People and being of the celebrated Savoy music clan. Ronstadt and Savoy first appeared together on Vanguard Records’ tribute to Cajun music, Evangeline Made, in 2002.  That partnership continues here wherein the duo cryptically bills themselves as the “Zozo Sisters”.  Savoy’s voice is smokey velvet to Ronstadt’s silky satin and the contrast works to great effect throughout the 16 tracks. When singing in unison, particularly on the title track, “Marie Mouri”, “The One I Love Is Gone”, and “Parlez-Moi D’Amour”, their voices meld into one voice. Ronstadt and Savoy become an instrument, like Joel Savoy’s guitar or Kevin Wimmer’s fiddle, but are careful not to overshadow the players. Likewise, the stringed instruments act as a kind of singing voice on “Plus Tu Tournes”, a lively, spirited tune, which is a welcome reprieve from the pensive and lovelorn landscape that dominates the album.

The cover image of Adieu False Heart depicts a grey, wintery landscape. Trees are bare, their leaves long fallen to the ground and swept away by a chilly wind.  And so Linda Ronstadt sings “If memories were like the leaves that fall/the wind would have carried them from my mind” on Julie Miller’s “I Can’t Get Over You”. Like the memories Ms. Miller so poetically envisions, each song on Adieu False Heart represents a fallen leaf swirled around in a maelstrom of emotion. Themes such as deception (the title track), loneliness ("Burns’ Supper"), death ("Marie Mouri"), and despair ("Rattle My Cage") create a fairly bleak portrait of life on the bayou while stringed instruments amplify the lyrics’ delicate desolation. The haunting sadness of Andrea Zonn’s resophonic viola bookends the album while other string instruments (upright bass, dulcimer, violin, fiddle) embellishing the emotional core of each song. It is not an uplifting listen, per se, but it certainly is an exceptional exercise in reworking and interpreting songs through the lens of Cajun music sensibilities.

Adieu False Heart has no shortage of highlights and the excellent musicianship yields repeated listens.

However, “Walk Away Renee” is the one amaranthine track on the album that will only become more beautiful as time passes.  Given an acoustic treatment by producer Steve Buckingham, Ronstadt and Savoy’s version stands among the most truthful versions by this oft-covered evergreen. Listen to the Zozo Sisters intone “Just walk away Renee/ You won’t see me follow you back home” and dare not to be moved.  Their harmonies are simply mesmerizing.

On the surface, Adieu False Heart may appear to appeal only to fans of Linda Ronstadt, Ann Savoy, or Cajun music but such a conclusion is immaterial when considering the stellar performances by both vocalists and their impressive line-up of musicians.  Highly recommended with a box of tissues by your side.


by: Barry Gilbert

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy

"Adieu False Heart" is a rare CD of such shimmering beauty that it works equally well as serious listening, background music for quiet conversation or as a soundtrack for a late-night, solitary drive.

But that shouldn't be a surprise given the exquisite voices - and taste - involved in the project.

Linda Ronstadt will be the marquee name for most people. Her career in the 20-plus years since her Southern California country-rock days has been marked by reach, if not always by grasp, as she explored American standards, the Mexican music of her family in Tucson, Ariz., country harmonies, and even Gilbert and Sullivan.
Louisiana's Ann Savoy is from a royal family of Cajun music and plays with accordianist-husband Marc Savoy and fiddler Michael Doucet in the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, among others. A music historian and author, she and Ronstadt first sang together four years ago on the Cajun tribute album "Evangeline Made," produced by Savoy, and "Adieu False Heart" is a natural follow-up to that work. 

Advertisement"Adieu" is clearly Cajun in spirit, but it is neither forced nor cliched. It is sung mostly in English, and Ronstadt and Savoy are supported by all-star acoustic players, including Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Byron House and Sam Broussard. Guitarist Buddy Miller sits in on his wife Julie's "I Can't Get Over You."
Soprano Ronstadt and alto Savoy alternate lead vocals on this collection about love, lost love and broken hearts, harmonizing in service to songs by some of our best writers. Brit-folk rocker Richard Thompson is represented by two tunes, "King of Bohemia" and "Burns' Supper," proving again how timeless and beyond genre his writing is.

Quintessential American writers whose songs naturally absorb Cajun flavors include Bill Monroe ("The One I Love Is Gone"), John Jacob Niles ("Go Away From My Window") and Kevin Welch ("Too Old to Die Young").

Creole French gets its due on "Parlez-Moi D'Amour" and "Plus Tu Tournes."

But the revelation, with Ronstadt and Savoy trading leads on the verses and chorus, is "Walk Away Renee," a Left Banke classic that made it to No. 5 in 1966. Slower than the original, with a simple trio of violin, viola and cello replacing the Left Banke's Baroque string section, this version, buoyed by Rondstadt's emotional delivery, makes the heartbreak palpable.

Ronstadt may no longer be spitting out the lyrics to snarling rockers such as Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," but her singing has rarely been more beautiful. Neither has Savoy's.

Together, they make magic.

Grade: A