Miwa Gemini's Quiet Side at Iota

Saturday, February 9, 2008

There's a major Japanese arts festival underway at the Kennedy Center, but Miwa Gemini's appearance across the river at Iota on Thursday evening was just a coincidence. While Gemini's accent revealed her Japanese origins, the New York-based singer-guitarist's music was entirely Western. Her short, engaging set ranged from folk-pop to rock-and-roll to "Que Sera, Sera," a lightly Latin standard that was a hit for Doris Day in 1956.

The turnout was also light, perhaps because Gemini's new album, "This Is How I Found You," won't be officially available in the United States until March. (Release dates are elastic these days, of course, and the disc was for sale at the show.) Most of the show, like most of the album, consisted of wispy lovelorn ballads, occasionally punctuated by a high, sharp trill. Live, Gemini couldn't reproduce the recording's vocal multitracking and other subtle tricks, but she was supplemented by Aaron Burns on glockenspiel and accordion.

If Gemini is principally an introspective folkie, she accompanied herself on a red electric guitar, and proved she could use it for more than gentle ripplings with two up-tempo numbers, "Charlie Chaplin Broke My Heart" and "Traveling Man." The latter was the set's highlight, not because it's one of her better songs (it isn't) or the guitar solo was fluid (it wasn't), but because Gemini opened up the tune with an additional verse and an earthy Japanese proverb she learned from her mother: "There are things between a man and a woman that even dogs won't eat," an adage that's definitely more electric guitar than glockenspiel.

-- Mark Jenkins

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