Rosalie Cunningham - Two Piece Puzzle
Even though she already has another solo album under her belt as well as albums with the band Purson and several singles with Ipso Facto, Rosalie Cunningham has somehow fallen under my radar until now. Thankfully all that has changed with Two Piece Puzzle, a release that finds her incorporating elements of rock, prog, folk, psychedelia, blues, jazz, middle eastern, pop and more, often with a modern sounding 60’s and 70’s vibe, and resulting in an absolutely stellar collection of songs. Unlike her debut, lockdowns during covid forced Cunningham and her partner Rosco Wilson to approach this album differently, working out the new songs at home and then building and building on the demos resulting in most of the album being the contribution of just the two of them with some additional performers on a few tracks. Starting things off is the aptly titled “Start With The Corners”, a heavy, twisting turning, psychedelic/prog instrumental full of fuzzed out guitars and Deep Purple like keys. Next up are a couple of tracks featuring Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention on violin. “Donovan Ellington” is an infectious track meshing folk and psychedelia with a bit of prog and highlighted with some great guitar and the aforementioned violin. It is part one of the tale of a blacksmith who heads to the new world to be free only to find out that life had followed him there. "Donny, Pt.2" is a jaunty, folk tune fleshed out with violin, bouzouki and mandolin that details the second part of the tale with the blacksmith this time leaving to become a pirate. Following the short spoken word cut “The War” comes “Duet”, an almost eight minute long song that is the highlight of the album. Starting off with a vaudeville like bouncing piano it leads into a blissful masterwork that is reminiscent of some of the best stuff The Beatles ever did, twisting and turning with Rosalie and Rosco trading off on vocals as the song builds and builds to a psychedelic, fuzzed guitar driven ending. “Tristitia Amnesia” starts with a dreamy Eastern influenced opening before evolving into a trippy psychedelic rocker, while “Scared Of The Dark” is a manic track full of constantly shifting tempo changes that is a bit reminiscent of something Queen would have done. After another short interlude with “God Is A Verb”, a pretty little (1:32) track with just acoustic guitar and vocals, comes “Suck Push Pull”, a tune that walks the line between glam and 70’s hard rock with plenty of organ and more thick, fuzz guitars. As if she hasn’t kept us on our toes throughout the previous nine cuts, closer “The Liner Notes” starts off as a beautiful lounge jazz tune with slinky funk beat driving it and doing an outstanding job of showcasing her vocals, but as the song progresses it slowly evolves into an all-out rocker without you even realizing what has happened. Following the album tracks are a couple bonus songs that were initially released on a limited edition 7” last year. “Number 149” is a poppier tune that is overflowing with hooks and has a bit of an early 70’s psychedelic vibe, while “Fossil Song” is another hook-heavy pop song with a bit of a quirky side and some guitar playing that is worth the admission alone. Two Piece Puzzle is a very impressive collection that is definitely one of the early front runners for my 2022 Top Ten.