It was late on a New Year’s Eve. The snow was falling. A little girl wandered through the streets. She had no hat and no shoes”. So starts the Hans Christian Andersen story of “The Little Match Girl”, as adapted by Loren MazzaCane Connors for the liner notes of his album of the same name. As Connors presents it, it’s a mysterious tale of sadness, fantasy and beauty, death, loneliness and the afterworld. Connors adapted the story for the liner notes, and also presents his musical adaptation of it on the first six tracks of the CD.
The six-track suite “The Little Match Girl” finds Connors using his guitar to express feelings that words can only hint at. He has an amazing expressiveness that he draws on in quiet, moody abstract instrumentals, mostly for solo electric guitar. Titles like “She Was Hungry and Very Very Cold” and “Falling Star (Comets Light the Way)” communicate the basic narrative of the fable, while Connors’ guitar shoots to the gut feelings beneath the plot, churning out sadness and hunger and gently channeling light and hope. On the opening track, “Falling Snow”, he uses a solitary echoing pattern which gets right to the heart of the story as described above: a girl wandering alone as the snow falls. From there, he uses his guitar in a meditative way that swirls up emotions with a minimum of notes. He manages to tell the story in less than 15 minutes, ending with a perfectly affectionate tone on “The Dawn”.
In “The Little Match Girl”, Connors achieves a certain kind of bluesy bliss through a sound which is at times rather simple and sparse. The rest of the CD is filled by another song suite, this one titled “The Art of the Blues”. Here, over eight untitled tracks, he delves into darker, gloomier territory, capturing the heart of the blues by delivering feelings of emptiness and horror. The first and last of these tracks were recorded live at NYC performances (one at Downtown Music Gallery, one at the Cooler); each pairs him with an accompanist, guitarist Andrew Burnes on one and Persian daf player Neel Murgai on the other. The opening track is especially heart-stopping, as Connors and Burnes combine noisy electric whirring with mad soloing.
Loren MazzaCane Connors isn’t a cult hero for no reason. His music is awe-inspiring for those listeners who relate to it and difficult to those who don’t. His use of empty space in his pieces and his quiet approach make this album, like his music in general, something that might not appeal to your average person on the street. But pay close attention and he will sweep you away like few guitarists can. A one-person gentle tornado, Connors can get deep into human feelings with a single guitar, and The Little Match Girl is more fine proof of that.