Leelanau (Antenna Farm Records)
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Oct. 12, 2012
Dana FalconberryLeelanau (Antenna Farm Records)
Among the isolated folks in the rural parts of northern Michigan, there's a pet name for the fanny-pack wearing vacationers who visit during warm months to relish the water and woods: "fudgies" – so named for the tourist-trap fudge shops they support. Dana Falconberry's second full-length and fourth release overall, Leelanau ruminates on the Michigan native's summers spent exploring the state's northern lower peninsula. That imagery – Petoskey stones, birch bark, red foxes, inland lakes, and maple leaves – sets the scene of my own family's backyard nearby. It's with such personal provenance, then, that I proclaim Falconberry a fudgie. Orchestral in execution and folk in instrumentation, pop cuteness defines Leelanau, but it's not simply Falconberry's virginal voice staking that effect. Her phrasing and rise-and-fall-melodic tendencies recall a windup music box or, when joining backup singers to ape a toy piano on "Crooked River," a tonal hiccup. Her vocal experimentation nestles in campfire classical arrangements and plucked strings, dramatic rests, vibrating flourishes, brilliant countermelodies, and practical whistling accompaniment – all sounds as pastoral as wind through the trees. Through personal journals and scenic descriptions, Falconberry eventually confesses, "I was a quivering maple leaf, about to drop" in "Lake Charlevoix." Relating the Ojibwe legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes on another song, Falconberry commiserates with a mother bear waiting forever for her drowned cubs to come ashore. A day at the beach, "Petoskey Stone" confronts nature's built-in awe, while the guilt-ridden "Muskegon" expresses a sorrow that gives Leelanau emotional depth. Naturally the album plays out especially provocatively to me because Dana Falconberry lyricizes my rarely spotlighted native environment, but it'll interest you too, since she could be describing Spicewood, Texas, or Lake Havasu, Ariz., or Fairbanks, Alaska, because she's really singing about escapism and gaining understanding of life through nature. She's singing about growing up.