Bonfire Madigan – I Bleed: A Decade of Songs

Bonfire Madigan
I Bleed: A Decade of Songs

Although actually credited to Madigan and not Bonfire Madigan, I felt it important to refer to this release as a Bonfire Madigan release, so that the review will be appropriately linked to other reviews. Because Madigan Shive and her various projects have released some significant works worthy of attention, as this release, spanning 1994 to 2004 and several different projects, shows perfectly.

Madigan Shive wields her cello with as much passion and intensity as an axe-wielding, heavy metal performer, and that’s what sets her apart from contemporaries. The haunting tones of the cello mix with her impassioned vocals and strong backing musicians to create music that’s deeply personal and intense even at their quietest.

The closest comparison I can make to Madigan Shive is Ani Difranco. Both female artists are willing to create very personal music – although Shive’s is usually not quite as obvious as Difranco’s – and both demand your attention and focus. These are artists larger than life, not just in music but community activism, poetry, and other areas.

With most of the Bonfire Madigan back catalogue out of date and a new full-length studio album on the horizon, Shive has released two albums to introduce fans to her music. The first, I Bleed spans her early days in the riot-grrl band Tattle Tale, her Madigan days, and early Bonfire Madigan recordings. These are rare tracks worthy of attention, and the 15 songs here showcase a development in sound. There’s the quiet, moody tracks like “Running,” the scrawling “Moontime,” and the howling, fast-paced rock of “Pity Rock.”

“Vigil” mixes electric guitar and cello for a more upbeat sound, while “Inch X Inch” is more focused on acoustic guitar, quiet and contemplative. Her voice is especially soothing on “Glass Vase Cello Case,” as she sings breathily “are you…still breathing?” and the rich-toned “Swarm,” with its lyrics, “it’s so good to be alive.” “Lesson in Ride” is more urgent, the beat picked up and Shive’s vocals going from sung to howled. “For Life Long Scars” is fast-paced and catchy with a screechy ending, and “Dishes & Spoons” ends the album with an acoustic folk-sounding feel.

I Bleed is truly a worthy introduction to the works of Bonfire Madigan, showing where Madigan Shive had been and where her band’s music is heading. It’s impossible to listen to these songs and not feel her passion, and to keep the passion in music for 10 years is an impressive feat.