By: Liz Levine
The first thing that stands out about Pearl and the Beard is the amazingly strong voices of each of its members, any of which could easily hold lead duties in countless types of bands. Alone they are lovely, but together they’re attention grabbing: Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price, and Jeremy Styles dip and dance around one another, singing different melodies or joining in sweet harmony. Their debut album God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson (Family Records, 2009) brings folk pop with a dash of quirk, lo-fi in its near lack of electricity but busy with creative instrumentation. Glockenspiel, jingle bells, handclaps, and even musical saw augment the driving acoustic and cello, all acting as leaping grounds for the vocals to soar. With Mackenzie singing the throaty, songbird-like high notes, Price the stunning alto, and Styles a smooth croon that could drive a top 40 album, the crew are lucky to have found each other. As they work in unison to deliver their carefully constructed parts, the resulting whole suggests a collaboration only friends could pull off, adding a warming niceness to the songs.
Opener “Voice In My Throat” is one of their strongest tracks, instantly presenting the group’s vibe as it combines singer/songwriter quiet guitar music with the flourishes of female folk before jumping into a delightful trumpet and glockenspiel section backed by jazzy cello plucks. “Johnny and Donny” uses dark cello wails and a flamenco beat to lament the impending loss of Coney Island, linking the sadness of chance and change to classic underdog Sanco Panza and Johnny Cash’s burnt down house. The slower love songs are especially heartbreaking in that the vocals carry real emotion, as in “Twice Today,” where strings sing the melancholy tune of lovers as Styles plucks the guitar quietly. An entire choir is enlisted to accompany “Oh, Death!” whose ominous chords and scratches can do little to overshadow those uplifting vocals, including an awesome country twang delivery of the line “I love you.” Pearl and the Beard are creative and talented, especially when it comes to the combining of individual ability to produce the greatest outcome.