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Album Review: Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe
Cover image of the album Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe by THISTLE
Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe
2024 / Thistle
41 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
As the title makes clear, Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe pays musical homage to American poet and storyteller, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). Created by singer, composer and harpist Thistle Jemison, the album includes five of Poe's poems set to music and four of his stories retold through original lyrics. Quoting Thistle: “When I wrote this music, I was inspired by the emotions of terror and wonder, which the beloved Poe so famously evoked through his literature.” The album will be released on January 19, 2024, the 215th anniversary of Poe's birth. Two singles, "The Raven" and "Spirits of the Dead," were released on October 7, 2023 to commemorate Poe's death.

The music of THISTLE is best categorized as Chamber Folk, a fascinating blend of jazz, western classical, world music, and folk genres. On the album, no fewer than thirteen musicians are featured performing on a variety of instruments that include harp, cello, vibraphone, flutes, mandolin, violin, horns, and a wide range of percussion instruments from around the world. Again quoting Thistle: “The music of THISTLE is meant to be heard by candlelight anywhere there is beauty – a garden, a cemetery, a historic theater–.” When she wrote the music for the four stories - "King Pest," "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" - it was with the intent to send shivers down listeners' spines. I'd say she has succeeded well! The five poems that Thistle set to her original music are "Evening Star," "The Raven," "Fairyland," "Mysterious Star," and "Spirits of the Dead." Thistle produced and directed a video for "Spirits of the Dead" that was shot in the floor-to-ceiling marble antechamber of one of America’s first crematoriums. Images include Thistle singing and playing the harp by candlelight in a sparkling sequined dress and three muses dancing among the marble obelisks of a cemetery at dusk. It's quite a production and adds compelling visuals to the music.

The music on all nine tracks is very atmospheric and beautifully-performed, and Thistle's vocals are compelling. I find some of the lyrics difficult to understand, though, so I hope they will appear on THISTLE's website so that people can fully appreciate and enjoy the stories they tell!

Three years in the making, Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe is a unique work of art. THISTLE's 2019 debut album, The Ice Maiden Comes: Songs Inspired by H.C. Andersen is a musical exploration and retelling of eleven of Andersen's stories through song, presenting the work of another classic author in a new format and, hopefully, sparking interest in the original works as well as the contemporary interpretations in music.

Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. The double single of "Spirits of the Dead" and "The Raven" is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify; each of the two songs can be streamed or downloaded separately, too. The video of "Spirits of the Dead" is on YouTube. Check 'em out!
November 17, 2023