Wednesday, February 01, 2012
The supposedly dour John Dowland is thought to need all the help he can get. His early 17th century songs have been sometimes jazzed up and sung by Sting, even. Still, Michael Slattery, the American tenor of Irish descent (who, as the sailor, was the first singer heard in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Tristan Project” seven years ago) has some cheek. He and the Canadian early music ensemble La Nef have given a selection of Dowland's very British songs an Irish lilt. And an Indian drone too, with a shruti box that is meant to be used for chanting.
It works. Dowland’s tunes are sturdy, able to thrive on a lively lilt or bring a sentimental tear to the eye when offered with sweet Irish melancholy. Slattery sings with a feel for period style and the pub, and La Nef crosses genre divides with similar ease.