Album Review: Burnt Offerings by Vudu Sister

Providence band brings mythology to latest effort


Albums are versatile; some are created in response to the times, some come from spontaneous creation, and others are a culmination of research and creativity, often holding a deeper meaning. Some albums are especially challenging to create, as they take extensive learning and understanding.

Burnt Offerings, the fourth album from AS220-based artist Keith J. G. McCurdy, falls squarely in the latter category of album. The album is a collection of songs from the perspective of ancient mythological characters – particularly women – and is partly inspired by a work of Ovid called Heroides. McCurdy sings the songs in Latin and Greek, with translations to English available.

As a double major in classical studies and English literature, McCurdy became passionate about these languages in college. “I think it is important for any artist to not only challenge themselves but also their reader/audience/listener,” McCurdy says. “I tried to make sure that even if you as a listener cannot understand the words, the melody, the instrumentation, and the emotions are clearly evoked and are still pleasurable and cathartic.”

Burnt Offerings stylistically fits into old Roman and European traditions; the strings and deep cloaking acoustic sound evoke an earthiness, recalling these traditions. But, taking these sounds a step further, Vudu Sister makes the sounds relevant and personal to evoke the stories. It is not an emulation of the old, but rather it gives context to the stories and the voices within the story.

“I wanted these songs to have a mode that was authentic to my own original style but also an elegance or subtly that wouldn’t deprive the language of its dignity being sung in an anachronistic way,” says McCurdy. “Classical music, especially from the Romantic period, has also been a heavy influence on my listening and writing.” McCurdy cites mid-20th century Balkan and Mediterranean folk music as inspirations.

Despite drawing on musical traditions separated by space and time, Vudu Sister brings a quality of intimacy to the music, with unique voices that make it relevant to the here and now. The album tells ancient stories in ancient languages while reflecting universal and incessant injustices.
McCurdy says, “I wanted to make sure there was still ‘me’ and my own voice in there, in hopes that this would still feel and sound authentic.”

Vudu Sister wrote the songs for this album with composition help from Amato Zinno and Alexander Garzone. Angela DeGaitas played the viola, violin, and some vocal harmonies on Burnt Offerings. Rachel Rosenkrantz provided additional harmonies. The album was engineered, produced, mixed, and mastered by Michael Samos.

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