A Review of the Neal & Leandra CD
"Dancing With A Ghost"

"Dancing With A Ghost"
Neal & Leandra

Copyright 2007

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 7/07
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" -- Alfred Lord Tennyson

"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation" -- Kahlil Gibran

Such appears to be the predominant strains throughout the latest Neal and Leandra release, "Dancing With A Ghost," 60 minutes of compelling reflection on relationships -- the good, the bad and the ugly.

"Broken" opens the release, a writ small and large anthem of resilience covering the emotional spectrum. With sentiment applicable to a single pairing or a social movement reminiscent of those led by Mandela or King, it opens:
"We are broken
we are beaten
we are battered
we are bowed
We have spoken of retreating
There's nowhere to go but
Forward now..."
Offered matter-of-factly,"Luis (I Know)" is a devastating snapshot, filled with emotional twists and turns, of the hidden life of illegal immigrants. It's impossible not to become emotionally involved with the protagonist and his family.

Written about a missing husband/father, the title cut "Dancing With A Ghost" has multiple possible reference points. A man leaves a household for good or possibly a soldier has died overseas -- leaving behind a wife and daughter dealing with the emotions spurred by his absence.

The most provocative line in "Complications Of A Broken Heart" -- "some of us mend, some of us don't" -- is a spot-on nod about the idiosyncratic and individualistic nature of loving and losing.

"The Eyes Of Your Family" is a captivating portrait of the hard slog and choices so many in humanity face daily. The telling chorus goes:
"...Now everybody's jumping off of something
At the end of the American dream
But we are born with nothing and we'll go out with nothing
At least that's the way it seems to me
At the end of every day there's a price you have to pay
To look square in the eyes of your family..."
This cut, along with "Luis (I Know)," are as stirring as Neal and Leandra's earlier civil rights movement offering "Ready For Memphis." That is select company.

"It Doesn't Matter" boils life down to the essential -- loving is all that truly matters. What could be over the top schmaltzy in the hand of amateurs turns into something valuable that asserts the most basic and essential of human needs. Also falling into this category is "I Believe" -- an ode to one's lover.

On the flip side, "Without You," depicts the difficulty in carrying on and the sometimes simply going through the motions after the departure of a loved one. "Beautiful Goodbye," though more upbeat, remains melancholy-ish in presenting similar subject matter.

"Leaving" graphically exhibits the sometimes elusive and mystifying nature of love that is dissipating:
"...Love me
I can't make you smile do you still
Love me
We sit across the table, we hardly say a word
We don't speak each other's language, does that strike you as absurd
>I don't know how to say love me
Do you..."
Complete with organ backing, the gospel-like "Someone's Been Praying" takes the listener along for an upbeat journey.

Call this release an indentifiable one as any being present on this earth for a decent amount of time will recognize themselves at multiple points through this collection of songs.

It's also worth noting that this duo certainly hasn't succumbed to what ails other long-termers in the music field -- that being running out of things to say. Sparkling pearls of wisdom and intimate stories sometimes run dry with age creeping up on musical artists, as if all has been told. That's definitely not so with Neal and Leandra. Plus, Leandra's voice remain as sultry as ever -- someone really should utilize her vocals in a perfume or lingerie ad -- the sales would skyrocket!

Track List:

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