Despite a kaleidoscopic mix of Celtic-tinged guitars, dulcimers and mandolins, cooing woodwind ensembles and the occasional raucous accordion, Claudia Schmidt’s mellifluous, rock-steady vocals are the focus of her recently released album, New Whirled Order. Her songs span a myriad of styles and subjects, but Schmidt admits she unknowingly channeled two distinct emotions most prominently when recording the album: love and fear.
“I’ve never sung so unabashedly about love,” says Schmidt. “Fear was never a problem. While I did not embark on this project with a theme in mind, it is clearly woven through all the songs on New Whirled Order.”
New Whirled Order converges at the intersection between tender acoustic, swinging jazz, and heartfelt hymnal. Schmidt’s vocals are nothing short of explorational, yet avoid ostentation in their sincerity; New Whirled Order was recorded in the wake of heartbreak—most notably the death of Schmidt’s mother, to whom two songs are directly dedicated on the album. The first of these two songs—”Jane’s Gone”—is a spellbinding Celtic lament that, at times, slips into tones of an Indian devotional chant, creating a mesmerizing composition that somehow ends as soon as it begins. The second of the two—”Jane’s A-Round”—is a stereophonic whirlwind of intersecting voices, all repeating a mantra that is simultaneously ominous and enlightening.
Contrasting Schmidt’s cathartic odes to her mother is “Strong Woman Has a Bad Day Polka,” an upbeat number that is equal parts hip-swinging Polka and poignant social commentary. The song is punctuated with a wry refrain: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you wish that you were dead.”
With a track record that spans 40 years of recording and live performance, Schmidt’s New Whirled Order is the work of a singer/composer who can draw upon a lifetime of musical influences and life stories. The result is introspective, expansive, and, perhaps most importantly, meaningful.