Charmed Twice Over
Bitter Suite 7 haunts the earways
By Mel Minter
On its second CD, the “twisted folk” duo Charmed—Alicia Ultan and Bambi Wolf—once again take on the darkness and find the light. In 12 original, emotionally powerful songs, Bitter Suite 7 explores love, loss, betrayal, memory’s hauntings, the search for a center, and the promise and sometimes redemptive certainty of love.
The new CD, unlike the just-the-two-of-us first release, brings some friends along for the ride on most tracks, including Rahim AlHaj (oud), Maud Beenhouwer (bass), Tim Gaulden (guitar), Claire Gentry (accordion), Benjamin Jackson (drums), Kanoa Kaluhiwa (sax), Jacqueline Ultan (cello) and co-producer John Wall (backing vocals). The two songwriters turn out to be accomplished arrangers, too, deftly deploying the expanded instrumentation to create a larger, richer stage for their stories.
They address troubling issues with an emotional intensity that sometimes invests their images with a near-magical reality. Yet the music somehow, almost inevitably—maybe it’s in a turn of phrase, maybe it’s in an unexpected shift from minor to major—finds reason for comfort and hope. Tenderness and humor help relieve the struggles, too.
“When we first met, that’s always been my heart’s desire—to heal. There’s healing and being able to release things,” says Wolf.
“You’re [always] starting in one place in our songs, and there’s a bridge to the other side—which is where we’re trying to get, in a way,” Ultan says. “The sense that, yeah, you’re going through this shit, but you’re going to find your way. We find our strength, we find who we love, we find a peace.”
That’s exactly where you’ll find yourself at the end of the CD’s last track.
The CD release party will present Charmed with friends at O’Niell’s Pub—a rare chance to hear the music live with the expanded instrumentation.
Charmed’s CD release party takes place on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. at O’Niell’s Pub (4310 Central SE). No cover. CDs will be available for $15.
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-