Strange & Wonderful

MaMuse’s second full-length effort, Strange and Wonderful, finds the intimate ensemble at its buoyant best, offering plenty of lively and lilting melodic expressions, back-and-forth harmonic vocals over spritely plucked mandolin, rhythmic double bass and brush-stroked snare drums. The new project builds on the solid song-crafting and joyful two-voices-as-one elements MaMuse brought forth on its debut CD, All the Way. Chico-based duo Karisha Longaker (vocals, bass, guitar) and Sarah Nutting (vocals, mandolin, flute, bass), along with percussionist Mike Wofchuck (Mother Hips, Loyd Family Players), strengthen their unique acoustic niche that Northern California has already embraced and that could be poised for wider adoration. Soft, cleanly enunciated lyrics of comforting earthy observations are brought forth throughout, almost taking the hand of the listener and saying, “See how truly marvelous the gift of life on this planet can be.” The dozen tracks featured here include offerings of vocal jazz (“Natural Order”), nonsectarian gospel (“On the Altar”), Celtic-lite (“Lilliana”) and tranquil, flute-infused ballads (“Red Bud”). The sound on the CD, which includes some incredibly soft and delicate passages, is impeccable, thanks to local audio superstar Dale Price and his Electric Canyon Studios. Strange and Wonderful completely sidesteps any hint of political content, but the profoundness of MaMuse’s muses might just be the perfect medicine for all political parties.