Worth the wait: CD excitement contagious

Two weeks ago, Jay Pun and Morwenna Lasko celebrated the completion of their debut album at the Gravity Lounge. Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule locked down the opening slot for one of the most anticipated local acoustic events of the year.

My late arrival cost me a good seat plus the privilege of seeing this acclaimed opening act, according to the few folks I polled hanging outside. (Alas, I have a tardiness condition.)

I wasn't shocked that Curreri and Sproule put on a good show. However, I was a bit shocked at the number of people who had packed themselves into Gravity Lounge. There was barely room for a line to the bar. I was forced to stand next to an extremely unpleasant someone who made casual conversation that was less enjoyable than being tortured with paper cuts on the tongue.

Jay Pun and Morwenna Lasko began the first notes of their set without introduction. I have to say that I'm tightly obsessed with the way Lasko plays a violin. She displays incredible attitude– as if the instrument owes her something, and she has come to collect payment in full every time she strikes a note.

Pun, on the other hand, just seems to conjure music from his guitar with little to no effort. The two of them lock into a rhythm that reveals the life in every song.

I can't forget to mention Ken Woodard on upright bass. He played almost flawlessly. He fits in the pocket so well that it's easy to forget there's a third instrument on stage. Johnny Gilmore joined in on drums for a portion of the set. He was nothing short of amazing, as usual.

Pun and Lasko put on a terrific performance at their CD release party, but they had no CDs to release because the disks did not arrive from the manufacturer in time. About a week later, Jay came through with a finished copy of the album, all nice and packaged with a barcode that says, "Look! This is official."

I remember the feeling when I had my first disk pressed up. Jay bubbled with the same excitement. If your music is your child, you nurture it through practice, exercise it through gigging, and understand it by listening to it. After that child grows into something mature, you're ready to put it on a CD and give it to the world. Jay gave his child to me with a smile that said he was a proud father.

In retrospect, I should have asked him what the title, Etopia, means. Maybe it's one of those inside things. Regardless, the disk is a great representation of the live Jay and Morwenna plus a few studio magic tricks.

The songs are polished up with layers and overdubs that probe the depth of the songwriting. Tracks like "1andA" and "JALD" hit the spot perfectly. The standout track on the record is "Etopia" featuring Corey Harris– not just because Harris sings a bit on the tune, but because it's the only song with an island feel, thus changing the swing of the record.

I would have been completely satisfied if Etopia were a completely instrumental album with no vocals. The music here says so much more than words can say, and I believe the two times words are sung don't add much– and even subtract.

That's a small price to pay to get to listen to tracks like "Bouncing Water" and "The Wen." Hats off to Pun, Lasko, and everyone involved in the project for making a long-awaited debut well worth the wait.