K Recommends: “Or” by Rose Polenzani

A friend got us tickets to see Indigo Girls for my birthday one year. I wasn’t a fan but the gesture was appreciated, and it meant getting to spend time together. My town isn’t a frequent stop on musicians’ tours, so why not?

The opening act for this show was Rose Polenzani, a singer-songwriter. I was fully prepared to yawn awkwardly throughout her performance. I was assuming this concert wouldn’t hold my interest. Not long before I immersed myself in music appreciation, I was last seen in waders, so deep in the entrancing ripples of indie rock or stuck in its overblown mud puddle. I was due for a reality mic check.

Rose’s performance was gentle but her lyrics often told dark stories with unusual word choices. I was chilled, warmed, and infatuated by her clever, nuanced folk tales.

While the Indigo Girls were on stage, they invited Rose back to perform with them. “Or” is an earlier song by Polenzani on her “Dragersville” album (a version with the Indigo Girls was released on the wonderful “Anybody.”). Amy Ray and Emily Saliers played alongside Rose and the three sang in crisp, heartbreaking harmonies that gave me pause.

Again, the lyrics were full-on beauty and pain. Everything was sung to a level of fulfilling poetry. The three belted out “Or” with an effect as near as the goosebumps on the arms of the venue’s patrons and as far as Orion’s Belt. I felt more appreciation towards the Indigo Girl’s hit, “Galileo,” after the trio’s performance.

After the show I purchased the “Anybody” CD which I still own and find so satisfying. The songs are forever wrapped in my gasps of wonderment at some of the difficult material. I always feel like I have found something soft and delicate but also startling on that record.

This version of “Or” is the original with just Rose’s pure voice and all the unknown blessings the line “I’m ready to leave all this wreckage behind me” can afford a listener.

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

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