If ever there was an album that described the human experience, it is The Original Essence. Its themes are as timeless as its artist is unique.
Each of its 10 songs were written, composed, and arranged by Peruquois, who in addition to being the main vocalist also plays synthesizers and string pads to scintillating atmospheric effect. Joining her, among a talented cast of supporting musicians, is the album’s three-time Grammy award-winning producer Tom Wasinger, who plays everything stringed from Native American mouth bow to Middle-Eastern oud, and fellow multi-instrumentalist James Hoskins on cello and gadulka (a bowed instrument from Bulgarian, similar to the Greek lyra).
Wasinger’s unparalleled versatility and experience as a producer of Native American artists gave this album the tribal integrity it needed to shine, and the result is a truly World Music experience with tasteful New Age infusions in all the right places.
Although The Original Essence is the fifth solo album from Peruquois, in some ways it is the first. Where her previous albums explored stories of power, here emphasis is on the power of story. Indeed, the album reads like a book in which all of our lives have been written. To that end, a trilogy around the theme of birth forms the album’s core. Although “Birthing Prayer,” “Birthing Chant,” and “Birthday Song” appear in the album’s latter half, they are most emblematic of Peruquois’s artistry.
Mixing spoken word, drone, chant, and prayer, each reveals an important facet of the album’s deeply maternal focus, which takes clearest form in “She Story,” in which Peruquois’s voice reaches soaring heights over a driving rhythmic landscape. This song is followed by “Mighty Man,” which concerns itself with vanity, greed, and idol worship.
From this description alone, one might think that The Original Essence would have no space for men in its sacred circle, when in fact it is a meditation on the harmonious joining of yin and yang, of female and male principles. If anything, the album is a prayer of unity, restoration, and healing.
These themes are best represented by the album’s second track, “Tribal People,” which speaks of all humanity as a single tribe. One of the album’s most effective songs, it features narration from Peruquois’s former mentor and partner John Twobirds, a Native American medicine man who dedicated his life to bringing people together. It is a philosophy that Peruquois takes up further in the anthemic “Great Mother,” another powerful meta-statement of inclusion.
The album’s opening and closing tracks, “Prayer Song” and “Universe is in Love,” concern themselves with cycles of life. The singing in both is magical, and reveals an artist at peace with herself. Hearing such self-awareness in action can only be inspiring for the listener, and makes The Original Essence all the more a restorative experience. Its words sweep through millennia of human history, from ancient times to an upcoming future, and through them allows us to recognize our indebtedness to times past and our responsibility for time to come.
Peruquois is the compass guiding us to that knowledge. She stands at the center of the universe, inviting us to do the same.