LIVE REVIEW: Abigail Lapell in Lincoln, MA (11.17.23)
Charming alternative folk singer/songwriter Abigail Lapell performed an early show as part of the New England Performance series– 6 p.m. showtime, home before 8–at DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass. on Friday. The show took place inside the museum in an intimate setting with a small stage and art on the walls. Lapell noted that it was her first time in Lincoln and she hoped to be able to look around at the sculptures the next day. When asked for a show of hands, many in the audience hadn’t been to DeCordova before either. Lapell said she told someone recently she was playing at the “Dee-core-dough-va” and they said, “I think you mean the De-cord-uh-va.”
Lapell exudes warmth and a confident, comfortable presence onstage. She plays finger style guitar and harmonica. Her music has been described as noir folk or “prairie noir,” although she’s from Toronto. It’s mostly dark, haunting and forlorn. Exactly what I gravitate towards. She sings about loss, nature, seasons, recovery. Lapell showcased her deep, breathy, ethereal vocals during the 75-minute set. She blends 70s classic folk with more modern edginess. It was a special, moving performance for those of us there to experience it. Lapell chatted in between songs, sharing thoughts and observations as well as information about the songs.
Lapell joked that 90% of her recent album, Stolen Time, is sad songs and the rest love songs. She wrote one of the love songs, “I Can’t Believe,” for her partner who she described as her complete opposite—quiet and reserved. It contains the line “I can’t believe that you believe in me.” On “Night Bird and Morning Bird” she enlisted audience help to whistle bird calls. She played a gorgeous, sentimental Fleetwood Mac cover of “Songbird” written by the late Christine McVie. Lapell said she felt closer to McVie because she’d recorded the song and was grateful for that. She wrote the bluesy, haunting “UFO Song” after hearing about a UFO sighting on tour in Saskatchewan. While spending time at a writing retreat in East Jordan, Michigan, there was a old piano there and she wrote the song “Jordan,” the first song she wrote on piano. She lived in Quebec for many years and sings several songs in French (or en Francais for those of us who speak French). One was a French lullaby, “Isabeau,” and the other “La cascade,” a song about loss that focuses on a waterfall as a symbol for life’s struggles. I wasn’t familiar with Lapell before this show but am now a fan.
Lapell has won two Canadian folk awards–Contemporary Album of the Year in 2015 for her album Hide Nor Hair and English Songwriter of the Year in 2017 for her album Getaway. She’s released five studio albums. Last year she released Stolen Time and on Friday, Lullabies was released. Lapell was inspired during Covid insomnia to record this collection of lullabies from around the world. Her music has received over 13 million Spotify streams.