straightforward folk, technical skills

Tocoi Light
Laurie Rose Griffith and Peter Mealy

By Paul Moffett

In an era of endless technological intervention in the music business, a straightforward folk duo singing cleanly and clearly over acoustic guitars (plus the occasional fiddle or harmonica) seems positively anachronistic. A recording that could have been done at any time over the past several decades, Tocoi Light is a find for folk music fans who value good songwriting and singing more than technological flimflammery and in-your-face attitude.

Of course, it helps one of the duo, in this Laurie Rose Griffith, is a wonderful singer.

Griffith, a Kentucky native from the Frankfort/Shelbyville area, is indeed a singer worth hearing, with a strong, clear voice and a refined sense of the emotion in each song she sings. Her husband/partner Peter Mealy is a superior guitarist with excellent technical skills. His singing is pretty good, too, although he necessarily pales in comparison to his wife. Together, their harmonies are solid and well crafted.

The songs on this CD are a mix of original compositions, traditional tunes such as "Devil's Dream," and songs by other songwriters, some well known and some not.

"Shotgun Down the Avalanche," the Shawn Colvin/John Leventhal tune, is one of the more familiar songs on this disc. Griffith's version is less obviously intense than Colvin's, but it still evokes the cold despair of the original.

"Tocoi Light," written by Bruce Dalzell, refers to the light of human auras. According to the liner notes, the term originated with Native Americans in the West Virginia area. Those individuals capable of seeing tocoi light were thought to be either touched or crazy. Dalzell uses it as a metaphor for a rich inner life that offsets a provincial personal history.

"Easy Way to Live," written by Pat White, is a splendid description of the longing that ordinary humans have to escape to an easier life. All servers, all workers, will relate to this tune.

The other eleven tunes, including Michelle Shocked's "Come a Long Way," stand up well to repeated listenings. "You'll Never Walk Until You Crawl," "Waiting for Rain," and "You Can't Fool the Moon," all Mealy compositions, strongly hint that this CD benefited from having the best of Mealy's songs to pick from.

Unfortunately, the cover is straight out of 1959, and in no way suggests the fine performances inside. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

The CD was finished just after the couple married, at the end of 1995. The CD can be ordered by mail from Griffith/Mealy at 508 Willis St., Fredericksburg, VA 22401.