Entries in Jack Tempchin (3)


Reviews by Paul McGee

Jack Tempchin One More Song Bluélan

Jack Tempchin is an American musician and singer-songwriter, best known for writing songs with the Eagles. The classic, Peaceful Easy Feeling, being the most recognised. He also had a hand in writing Already Gone, along with others, including a number of songs with Glen Frey for his solo work. As you would expect with such a pedigree, Tempchin has a way with a melody and there are plenty of examples of his stellar song-writing skills on this, his ninth solo release.

He sings in an easy, laid-back vocal style that is unhurried and smooth, perfectly fitting into the acoustic based songs that are included here. He speaks of returning to his roots with simple musical arrangements and that is what he delivers with a late-night, by the fire, conspiratorial feel to the entire project.

Slow Dancing, Old River and Around Midnight set the gentle pace and sound before the sweet strum of Circle Ties That Bind brings the listener forward into the next phase of the recording.

So Long My Friend is a snapshot of the life that Tempchin has most likely lived with plenty of colour in the images and a philosophy of keeping on moving, living life one day at a time. Still Looking For a Way to Say Goodbye is a lament to lost love and the haunted memories of regret “Was there something you said that I did not hear; How do we lose the ones we hold so dear”. It is the stand-out track in this collection.

The very clever, I Got Her Where She Wants Me To Be, is a fine tune and highlights the song-craft on display. Song For You is one of empathy for life’s knocks and struggles while Tumbleweed is a slow reflection on trying to love a free spirit who cannot be tied down. The closing track, One More Song, would sit quite easily into any Eagles record with a perfect chorus that sums up the raison-d’etre of this skilled artist; “One More Song For the Times to Come”.

Esquela Canis Majoris Self Release

The Spanish word Esquela apparently means ‘notice’ or ‘announcement’ and that is precisely what happens here. This is the third release from a very versatile group of musicians, Esquela, comprised of a five-piece indie-roots-Americana band featuring vocalist Rebecca Frame, lead guitarist Brian Shafer, Chico Finn on bass/vocals, Todd Russell on drums and Matt Woodin on guitar.

Guest Musicians on the project include producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel on guitar/vocals, Brian Mangini on keyboards, Matthew Polashek on saxophone, Mark Spencer on Pedal Steel and Tom White on Banjo/Tin Whistle/Fiddle.

The song arrangements are very bright and the harmonies are full of fun and spark. Their sound is up-tempo and driven by the strong vocals of Rebecca Frame which carry the fine playing through the 10 songs included here. A pleasing contrast is the world-weary delivery of Chico Finn on songs like Sorry, a salutary plea for forgiveness from a lover to his partner.

Pine Tar tells of a famous baseball game in 1983, played between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals that was abandoned on a technicality just as the Royals were winning. Heated protests followed and the debate raged until the game was replayed 24 days later.

This band has a quirky, independent streak to their music and topics such as corporate greed (Too Big to Fail) and racial inequality against the Irish (Need Not Apply) are balanced against parasitic females who crave wealthy husbands to keep them in a pampered life of luxury (Gold Digger). Best of all is a song called Animals that celebrates the joys of our four-legged friends and is a real joy.

This is a recommended release that will impress and bring a smile…

Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy The Miller Girl Merf 

Steve Hussey is a singer/songwriter and producer from Washington, West Virginia and has been playing professionally for almost 20 years in various bands.

This project is based around 10 love songs that are all written by Hussey and deal with the various aspects and challenges that are the stuff relationships are made of.

From the Bluegrass vibe of tracks like Looking For Love and Little Shove to the more modern Americana sound of Master Your Mind and Chalk It Up, there is plenty to keep the attention and attract the listener. Joined by Bluegrass prodigy Jake Eddy on banjo, this is a very enjoyable journey through song arrangements that span all aspects of traditional Roots/Folk influences.

The other musicians include Jeff Martin on drums, Ben Probus on fiddle, Anders Bush on bass and Ron Wallace on backing vocals and the songs are brought to life around the acoustic guitar of Hussey and the banjo of Eddy.

The title song, Miller Girl, is a view of local, rural life and fancying the neighbouring farmer’s daughter while Long List of Goodbyes is a clever take on moving on from heartbreak to the next opportunity. Better Day is a nice song that stays in the memory and the stripped back nature of the arrangements is simple and laced with easy tempos such as, I Pick You, a sweet tribute to love and all the positives of finding the ‘right one’… A very enjoyable release.

Sharon Goldman Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice) Self Release

This New York based singer-songwriter has been producing music of real quality since early 2000 and has received much praise for her literary gifts as both writer and performer.

Kol Isha is based in traditional Jewish communities, where women are not supposed to sing publicly in front of men. Across 13 songs (Eliza Gilkyson's Rose of Sharon is the one cover), Goldman takes us on a spiritual journey that visits her Jewish upbringing and influences, including the dogma of orthodox religion, balanced against a modern all-embracing spirituality, that is more inclusive and empowering.

Memory mixes with myth and there is a strong imagery running through songs like Jerusalem, Lilith, Pillar of Salt and The Sabbath Queen. A modern feminist perspective reflects on the traditional roles expected of women and the biblical and ancient Hebrew references are coupled with insight that draws inspiration from an ongoing search for her own truth.

The project is co-produced by Goldman and the excellent Stephen Murphy (various guitars) and engineered by Mark Dann who plays Bass on one track. With the subtle skills of Cheryl Prashker on percussion, Craig Akin on upright bass and Laura Wolfe on harmonium and violin, the arrangements are understated with plenty of room for the players to express their individual talents. Abbie Gardner guests on dobro and harmony vocals, with Brian Prunka on oud and Amy Soucy on background vocals.

Goldman has a number of previous releases and plays an active role in song-writing communities. Her Folk inflected music is both powerful and enduring.

Katie Garibaldi Rooted Clarity Living Dream 

This talented artist has been on our radar for some years now and her song-writing skills continue to hone themselves into a very pleasant listening experience. With four previous releases to her name, including the excellent Follow Your Heart (2014), this San Francisco artist produces a 5-song suite that shines brightly. All songs are written by Katie and production duties are shared with Kevin Blair, who also contributes on electric guitar and acoustic bass.

Delightful is a song that speaks of believing in yourself and not letting anybody put you down or knock your self-belief. I Am, has a sweet melody and the strings, mixed with fiddle & mandolin, are just perfect for a song that lends support to a friend/lover who is going through a difficult time. In My Wildest Dreams is a rites-of-passage song where illusion shatters and love does not always stay around - ‘In my wildest dreams; Love Stays’…

On My Own speaks of leaving that little hometown and going out into the big bad world. A coming of age anthem for the hopeful dreamers whose ‘memories sit and watch you leave.’ Bird in a Cage ends the record with a plea to fly free from those who impose limits on our lives. Self- doubt and self-imposed chains are there to be outgrown and the plea to ‘fly away’ leaves an image of someone who has already taken to the skies and knows that there really are no limits.

Katie is blessed with a clear and pure vocal delivery and her excellent band assist in making these 5 songs a really enjoyable listen. Tim Fellow (Drums, Percussion), Arturo Garza (Keyboards), JP Shafer (Fiddle, Mandolin), Nathan Lowry (Violin) and Emily Nelson (Cello) join Katie and Kevin Blair in making this sweetly soaring music that comes highly recommended.    


Reviews by Paul McGee

The Burns Sisters 'Looking Back' - Self Release

The Burns Sisters are an American folk music group from Ithaca, New York who have released a number of albums over their many years in the music industry. The group currently comprises sisters Marie and Annie and their sibling harmonies are a joy to experience on this latest release of 12 thoughtful and gently arranged tunes.

This new collection is inspired by their Irish roots and influenced by American Folk song interpretations. With song arrangements that are restrained and full of excellent playing, Jim Kimball (Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw,  Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, Wynonna Judd, Lee Ann Womack, Tricia Yearwood, Shelby Lynn, LeAnn Rimes, Carol King) oversees the project as engineer, mixing and mastering and also playing beautiful guitar parts across the tracks here.

The Irish influence of Uilean Pipes and flutes and whistles is provided with calm assurance by Blackie O’Connell, Joanie Madden and Seamus Egan. Violin and mandolin are played by Stuart Duncan and Don Kerse (bass) and Daryl Burgess (drums, percussion) provide a steady pulse to the arrangements.

Clare to Here (Ralph McTell) and Oh Danny Boy (Frederick Weatherly) are examples of the quality on display here with soaring performances and Kilkelly (Peter Jones) plus Free Born Man (Ewan McColl) touch on the forgotten history of people forced to compromise their local customs.

Both sisters are no slouches when it comes to song-writing and produce some impressive examples in Mothers’ Ode, Workhouse and To Live Again.

Far From My Home has a touch of the Corrs about the up-tempo arrangement and is the most commercial track here and the beautiful I Would, written by Daryl Burgess and Liz Hengher, is a real stand-out among what is a sublime collection of musical highlights. Recommended.

The Mulligan Brothers - 'Self-Titled' - Southern Roots

This is the debut album released in June 2013 by the Mulligan Brothers and one that created an instant market of enthusiastic fans across the country. The media exposure has led to greater opportunity for his four-piece who are neither related or indeed named ‘Mulligan’- a strange fact and one which leads to questions about how exactly they came up with such a band name ...?

Earlier this year they released their second album, Via Portland, which has been reviewed elsewhere on this site. It was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos fame and has confirmed their growing status as real contenders.

Ross Newell (lead vocals, guitar and songwriter); Gram Rea (fiddle, mandolin, viola, harmonica and vocals); Ben Leininger (bass and vocals) and Greg DeLuca (drums and vocals) make up the band and their playing is really compelling with a blend of alt-country, blues, and folk that sounds wonderfully loose, yet tight and spontaneous at the same time.

Ross Newell has been blessed with a superb voice, with great tone and a languid quality that gives an added edge to the words that deal with stories of the rural towns across America and the lives that inhabit the farms, factories and streets. These songs evoke plenty of images of common folk just trying to get a foothold on life’s ladder.

Thrift Store Suitcase and Momma Gets My Soul and two wonderful examples of song-writing at its finest while Sensible Shoes is a reflection of city life and the alienation suffered in the effort to keep running the race. Kaleidoscope is a stand out song of heartbreak and self-doubt and Come To Me is a melancholic song of longing. Well worth a visit and a debut to enhance any music collection.   

Norma MacDonald 'Burn the Tapes'- Self Release

From the opening strains of Company and the easy pedal steel refrain the listener is invited into the magical world of Norma MacDonald. She has been blessed with a voice that is sweetly seductive and filled with restrained yearning. This is her fourth solo album and each release bears the mark of a developing artist of the highest quality.

This is the first time that Norma takes control as sole producer and the results are a testament to her insight and her keen ability to identify just the right balance in the song arrangements and the sparse feel of the production.  Her words explore relationships and the loneliness of lives lived on the edge (Blue as a Jay  & You Can’t Carry It Around).

Before We Say Goodnight is a song that visits a couple who stand at an uneasy  threshold while Lighten Up, a duet with Gabe Minnikin, speaks to a lover in terms of heavy hearts and the weight of experience. Daysleeper is a soft tempo shuffle with some lovely dobro parts and a failed  attempt to real commitment at the core of the song.

Springsteen is visited in the song To Nebraska which has a haunting quality and reflects on a night of quiet examination and a hope for the future. Accidental Guest has a slow groove and looks at living life with no expectations or ambition. The closing track Hard To Get Back sings of trying to return home - but perhaps the only way is forward into the light and it is the momentum that keeps us going.

Atmospheric, understated and quietly self-assured in all that it delivers, this is a release which deserves great praise and should help to bring Norma MacDonald to greater media attention

The Paperboys 'At Peace With One’s Ghosts' - Self Release

This is the seventh release from Canadian band the Paperboys who formed in 1991 and have had a very fluid history of members coming and going over the years. The current line- up includes original founding member Tom Landa (vocals, Guitar, Jarana, Bass, Percussion, Ukulele) who also co-produced the project with Bill Buckingham.

The other musicians in the band are Kareem Kandi (sax), Kalissa Landau (fiddle, vocals), Sam Esecson (drums, percussion) Geoffrey Kelly (flute, whistle) and Brad Gillard (bass, banjo). There are also a healthy number of guest musicians, 12 in all, who add greatly to the excellent song arrangements and give the overall production a compelling sound.

Credited with playing a Folk Rock influenced music they really defy any such category and slot more easily into  World Music with a blend of Celtic folk, bluegrass, Mexican, Eastern European, African, zydeco, soul and country influences. A truly eclectic ensemble and a musical sound that is celebratory and full of exemplary playing and performance.

Labels can be so constraining and the only barometer you need for a Paperboys record is a finely tuned set of ears and plenty of room in your listening area to dance in. Infectious and exhilarating, the band burst into life with Mexican Son Jarocho music blended with Irish jigs and reels and Ska, Reggae grooves and African rhythms mix with bluegrass and country.

The fiddle based groove of Back To You, a song of returning home to a child kicks things off in fine style and there is a joyful feel to Spanish songs Mismo Latido and Nunca Jamas, while the one cover song, Don’t Want to Know (John Martyn) is given a polished Latino groove that works really well.

Better Than the Last is a song which reflects on the New Year and hopes for a better future, while Rest of my Days is a moving tribute to a close relation who is close to death. Fake It sings about the need to be honest with yourself in a relationship and acknowledging real feelings and The Monarch Set (trad) mixes an Irish/Latino groove complete with driving Horn section. The set finishes with The Pugilist, an instrumental that has a real mini Riverdance groove.

The band describe it well when they say they are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-lingual, multi-instrumental, genre bending, co-ed band. Long may his collective continue to make such wonderful sounds.

Mandolin’ Brothers 'Far Out' - Ultra Sound

This Italian band has been playing roots rock music since 1979 and has a number of previous releases in their portfolio. The six musicians integrate really well and play up a storm on tracks like Someone Else which has an Allman Brothers groove to it. 

Confident players across a range of instruments including guitars, slide & steel, organ, accordion, piano, double bass, drums, harp and mandolin; the easy pace of Circus is a fine song that highlights the talent on display. I don’t know what the local scene is like for country music in Italy but this band would not be out of place were they to relocate to the southern States and play a residency in a city that would take them to their hearts. 

Nightmare in Alamo is another fine tune that drives along to an acoustic/electric guitar riff that highlights the vocals of Jimmy Ragazzon. Thirteen songs including titles such as Bad Liver Blues, Black Oil and Ask the Devil – and they sound as good as their titles. Stirring stuff and a great listen.

Brad Absher & Swamp Royale 'Lucky Dog' - Montrose

This is the 5th release from Brad Absher, a singer- songwriter who dishes up a fine combo of blues, soul and gospel influenced music with his band, Swamp Royale, across the 12 tracks included here.

Some tasty slide guitar kicks off proceedings on Woman Who Loves Me and is followed by the excellent brass section playing on I Need a Drink. Hammond organ duels with electric guitar on several tracks and the musical expertise of the players can be heard to best effect on covers of Same Love (Bill Withers), Miss Your Water (William Bell) and Rather Be Blind (Leon Russell).

Over the course of 20 years this musician has gained a respect among his peers and his sound resembles the best of soulful, swamp blues with a groove that keeps the arrangements dynamic and heartfelt. With 6 covers I think that Brad would benefit by including more of his own songs; Wanna Be Your Man, Not Tonight and Memphis On the Way are great self-penned tracks, but this is a small gripe as the entire recording sits together effortlessly with gritty vocals augmented by sweet backing singers and the swell of organ, brass section and inventive backline playing all add up to an impressive release. 

Hardin Burns 'Down the Deep Well' - Ithica

This musical duo consists of guitarist Andrew Hardin and vocalist Jeannie Burns and this is their second release since they met in 2009. Self released debut, Lounge, appeared in 2012 and included nine original songs and a cover of George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness. This release is along similar tracks with ten songs all co- written with the exception of a cover of Richard Thompson’s Walking on a Wire. Co-produced by Gabe Rhodes, who also adds accordion, guitar and keyboards; the sound is acoustic based with fine vocal harmonies and excellent interplay among the musicians.

Andrew Hardin has had a long association with songwriter Tom Russell and has also recorded with artists Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson and Malcolm Holcombe among others. He has also recorded a number of solo projects. 

Jeannie Burns performed as one of the Burns Sisters for over twenty years and they released eight albums in addition to touring as back- up singers for Arlo Guthrie. She released an excellent solo album Coming Up Close in 2000.Their traditional style combines folk and country with a blend that is easy on the ear with Jeannie’s bluesy vocals complimented by Andrew’s sensitive guitar playing.

Gentle Rain, Get Back Home and Wave of your Hand are all examples of the restrained playing on display and with an easy groove, the entire recording sails along on a wave of quiet calm.

Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer 'Martitime' - Self Release

This duo initially met in Flagstaff, Arizona during 2010 before relocating to the Pacific Northwest and released their debut, Seed of a Pine, in 2012. Dave McGraw had previously spent a decade as a wildlife biologist and has released a number of albums both solo and with band, Crow Wing. Mandy Fer travelled in Spain, where she studied music, language and local culture. Her first release was in 2010 after years of paying her dues. 

This collection of 12 songs has most credits going to McGraw with 6 tacks and 3 co-writes with Fer, who chips in with 3 songs of her own. The project was recorded over 8 days in North-West Washington in a quiet forest, located on an island. Maritime has a gentle folk lilt to the songs with restrained playing from the ensemble of 6 musicians and contains great vocal harmonies from Dave & Mandy. Just like a snapshot of rural life, you get a sense and feel of their surroundings where the recording took place. Hushed and simple, the arrangements are coloured with Fer’s soulful delivery adding character to the songs. 

How the Sea is a fine example of this with some nice electric guitar lines from this talented lady. Dark Dark Woods carries on a similar theme of enduring love and the passing of time. The lyrics are quite obscure but paint images of nature, both human and wild, where the invisible is just as important as what the eye can see and the heart feel. Silence and Conspiracy of Ravens are songs that feel like we have been given a peek into a secret world of lonely reflection. Lots of imagery with sea, rain, birds and the moon featuring and overall, an interesting listen.

Millpond Moon 'Time to Turn the Tide' -Tikopia

This duo from Norway has one previous release, Broke in Brooklyn, which was greeted with much critical acclaim in 2012. The talents of Kjersti  Misje, guitar & vocals, blend seamlessly with  Rune Hauge also on guitars and vocals and the supporting players are very expressive and inventive in the subtle sounds and colour they bring to the arrangements. The production is very warm and the music blends light jazz with country and folk leanings. 

Both vocalists are excellent as they trade lyric lines, never more so than on the salutary race tale of Lena Baker and the opening cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.  There is also a great cover of Robbie Robertson’s All La Glory and a gentle working of the traditional song Wayfaring Stranger

In between, we have seven songs penned by singer/songwriter Rune Hauge and his words are very well crafted on songs like Wind of Plenty, in memory of a deceased friend, No Man’s Land, a tale of the restless wanderer and My Father Used to Say, a moving tribute to his father and his words of wisdom. 

The backing players add some wonderful touches on fiddle, mandolin, piano and the strings on selected tracks are really embracing and add character. A real joy from start to finish and a collection that is highly recommended.

Jack Tempchin 'Room to Run' - Blue Élan

This artist is a legend in US music circles having penned many hit songs for artists as wide ranging as the Eagles, Tom Rush, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Glen Campbell and Patty Loveless among others. He has released eight solo records since the 1970’s and this is a four-song EP to promote the soon to be released Learning to Dance. With a pedigree over 40 years of working with the top artists in Country music you expect a high standard and that is what is delivered with the title track visiting the perspective of a parent giving his children room to become independent and discover themselves.

Jesus & Mohammad is a very clever lyric that visits the imagined conversation both deities might have concerning the deeds that are done in their respective names on today’s planet. High Cost of Hate comments on the state of marital breakdown and points a finger at the legal profession that makes a fortune from the misery of others. The final song, Summertime Bum is a wry look at ambition and the lack thereof.

Old Man Luedecke 'Domestic Eccentric' - True North

This is the seventh release from Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player Chris Luedecke. His 2008 album, Proof of Love, won a 2009 Juno Award for traditional folk album of the year and in 2011, Luedecke won the same award for My Hands are on Fire and Other Love Songs. Tender is the Night, was released in 2012 and picked up a Juno nomination as well as “Folk Album of the Year” from Music Nova Scotia.

Domestic Eccentric contains fourteen songs, all written by Chris himself and he is joined by multi Grammy award winner Tim O’Brien, playing an array of instruments. They are supported by Jennah Barry on vocals and Samson Grisman on bass with Nick Halley adding percussion and vocals also.

 This is folk and roots music, played at a level that is quite simply enchanting. Old Man Luedecke’s songs of love (The Briar & the Rose, The Early Days, Now We Got a Kitchen) and life reflection (Chester Boat Song, Brightest on the Heart, Old Highway of Love) are delivered with compelling old-time banjo rhythm, with Tim O’Brien on guitars, mandolin, bouzouki, and fiddle, making for a heady mix.

This is a record about time, travel and the warm glow of a home fire. Early Days contains the wisdom of; “You got to hold on, it goes so fast, these early days they don’t last”. Contrast this advice with the lines in Now We Got a Kitchen; “Time goes so fast, I rested for a moment and it pulled out to pass”. Perspective and wisdom combined with wonderful musicianship – what’s not to like..?

Katie Garibaldi 'Follow Your Heart' - Living Dream

Thirteen tracks written by Katie Garibaldi, a singer-songwriter based in San Francisco and a talent to be taken seriously. With six albums to her credit already, this lady plays guitar and sings in a clear and compelling tone that is both emotional and soulful. 

Country based folk songs that are melodic and radio friendly must bode well for the future and the optimism of Follow Your Heart, Holding On and Make Them Go Away swing into gear in a confident style. There are a coterie of fine musicians used on the arrangements and the presence of violin and cello dovetail with pedal steel, mandolin, ukulele, flute, trumpet, trombone, clarinets and saxophones, to augment the electric guitars and solid backline to the songs. 

The recording is in memory of Melody and on White Roses her spirit is honoured with a beautiful reflection on the short time we are given on this magical journey; cello and acoustic guitar playing in unison and with understated grace against an emotional vocal.

Vegas charts the troubled path of a relationship and Wedding Day Song is one that captures the magic of new love and the promise of the future. This is an assured and confident statement from a talent that is worth a second look.

Broken Boat 'Small Defeats' - Self Release

Broken Boat are a contemporary English band that play and write music that is engaging, melodic and full of interesting lyrical reflections in the arrangements.

Songwriter Daniel Bahrami, multi-instrumentalists Brendan Kearney and Jess Hart and Jerome Maree on drums create a colourful sound that mixes strings, horns, accordions, keyboards and percussion. The songs bounce out of the speakers from the opening Small Defeats that reflects on the blows that life deals us and a somewhat cynical take on the enduring power of relationships.

Pencil Memories is a lament to old friends that slip away and the somewhat fatalistic conclusion that time teaches us nothing as we repeat ourselves from our early experiences of life. Water & Wine is a love song in tribute to a partner who is a saviour to the “bent and broken half of a better whole”.

There are some fine vocal harmonies, like on Morning Rain and the optimistic Two Balloons. Basement Days has a groove that reminds me of the Eels at their ironic best. This is Folk music for the 21st Century and very refreshing too.

Ben Reel '7th.' - B. Reel

This Northern Ireland artist has been releasing excellent music for the last 15 years and on this, his 7th record, he comes out of the gate on full throttle with the Springsteen influenced Lucky Streak. Followed by One of these Days, we swing into the territory of radio-friendly hitsville with Brad Paisley hooks and a melodic arrangement. Recorded and produced by Ben Reel in his home studio in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, the influences are varied across the 14 tracks here from rock, soul, blues and country. 

Say has a Johnny Cash inflection in the vocal and God’s World has a guest appearance from the great David Olney that lifts the song to a higher place. Reflection of the Blues has a lazy swing that highlights the fine vocal harmonies of Julieanne Black Reel and the excellent guitar of Sergio Webb. 

There are many musicians featured on this recording (15 in all) and the breath of the project is what will give it mass appeal. There is a track here for everyone, whether country or rock oriented, but perhaps the lack of a real central focus takes a little from the overall impression. Still, an experienced artist who keeps maturing and making entertaining music.    

Simon Murphy 'Let It Be' - Self Release

Belfast artist Simon Murphy delivers his debut record with 12 self-written songs and a pop/rock style that is a perfect fit for radio. Once Upon a Time is a fine example with a great sound and powerful chorus hook. Meet Me on the Other Side follows in a similar vein with a summer beat that lifts the song arrangement.

There are plenty of strong melodies across the songs and some fine acoustic highlights like My Baby, The Idiot and Not in my Name, one of the best moments here. The use of strings also works well and the production by Michael McCluskey, who also contributes guitar and vocals, is very bright and full.  

Lone Star Heart is country tinged and I Have a Voice is a shared vocal with Kaz Hawkins that works really well with plenty of attack and attitude. 2 Ghosts finishes the album with a slow strum and a fine backing vocal from Charlene Law to complement the violin and cello of Colin Elliott and Gwyneth Reid. This is contemporary Irish music of high quality and a very promising debut.



Reviews by Paul McGee

Krista Detor 'Barely' -Tightrope

Krista Detor is one of the great unheralded American songwriters of the last decade. If we look for a sense of grace in the world and a considered, reflective view of the human condition then there is much to recommend a secretive liaison with her wonderful, literary recordings.

Produced by David Weber and wrapped in understated song arrangements and melodies, Barely is a very brave record in its stripped bare beauty and gentle warmth. Hers is a voice that breathes a seductive, melancholic tone; worldly wise and always open to the possibility of enduring hope. Her ability to capture the appropriate mood is impressive and the insight and vulnerable nature of these songs quite haunting.

Can I Come Over tells of a repentant lover who wants to make up with her partner having broken a bond of trust. Box of Clouds speaks of a former lover who is left behind in the rush of living. Castle in Wales is a lovely memo to a partner to go back and relive a special memory. Barely is a knowing look at a broken relationship but yet a belief that love may endure. From the Pedestal is a song about regret and hurt caused to another while trying to look forward to the future and forget past memories.

For All I Know is a beautiful keepsake in time from a parent to a child and the hope of infinite possibility held in the future of a young life. Too Fast is a superb reflection of lives in motion and the decisions that shape us. The Coming Winter, a duet with Mary Dillon, boasts a beautiful duet that takes sides between two lovers in a fight to have their man return from the war to one or the other. 

Recorded with mainly piano and guitars with guest vocals from Amanda Biggs, Moira Smiley and Mary Dillon and cello from Anne Hurley; this is a quiet, reflective, poignant, personal and honest release. This one is a real keeper and highly recommended.

Joel Plaskett 'The Park Avenue Sobriety Test' - Self Release

Born in Nova Scotia, Joel Plaskett has been making quite a successful career in his native Canada and further afield for the last 15 years now, producing a succession of always interesting releases to mark his musical journey and maturity as a songwriter of note.

His sound is very much in the contemporary singer songwriter arena if we must pick a signpost, but his reach is more than just this with an eclectic array of genres, from blues and folk to rock and country.

This new release is his sixth solo outing, when not playing as part of the more rock orientated Joel Plaskett Emergency. The songs here cover a range of subjects from a nostalgic look at growing up (On a Dime) to a random thoughts scattergun (Song for Jersey) and on to more serious topics such as corporate control (Captains of Industry) and a plea to his nation (For Your Consideration).

The production is shared by Joel and Ian McGettigan and the musicians are drawn from a wide range of players that have worked with Plaskett over the years. Broke sings of not giving up and having fortitude and resolve to endure no matter what the obstacle – ‘I’m broke, but I’m not broken’.

Alright/OK and Credits Roll are relationship songs that discuss the relative health of staying together too long or exiting too early – ‘Don’t you hang around til the credits roll’.

When I Close My Eyes is a fine song of passion and yearning for that special someone and the title track (P.A.S.T.) is a fun romp through our daily lives and the randomness of it all.

The one cover version, Hard Times, (Stephen Foster) is a barometer in many ways for the rest of the project as it pauses among the pleasure of these songs to reflect upon the tears and sorrow of the disenfranchised. It is a terrific version of a timeless classic and shows the mark of the man. This is a really enjoyable listen and recommended to fans, new and old alike.

Kip Moore 'Wild Ones' - MCA

This second release by MCA artist Kip Moore has plenty of label weight behind it. Clocking in at almost 50 minutes however, it strikes me as nothing more than an overproduced, arena-oriented, hit factory approach to being a modern ‘real’ country boy. Is this the future direction of Nashville country music and should we be afraid?

Opening track Wild Ones has a production that includes programmed beats and a slow groove, topped off by chants and hand claps – it could be stadium rock – it could be chart pop – it could be a number of things, but it is not easily slotted into any definition of the traditional country genre. Sure, the vocal is authentic southern boy, influenced by many other artists and the gloss of Come and Get It has airwave hit written all over it; but that is not the point; am I listening to Bon Jovi lite or a Garth Brooks wannabe?

Commercial sound (Magic), upbeat tempos (Girl of the Summer), heart on sleeve lyrics (That was Us), pseudo-anthem chant (Lipstick), Radio Friendly (What Ya Got on Tonight), slow and sensitive (Running for You), on it goes...

The one song that feels truly authentic is final track Comeback Kid which shows what this song writer could achieve if he were to get back to the source of it all, honest songs delivered in a style that strips away all the fluff, programming and junk. 

Melanie Dekker 'Live in Europe' - Self Release

This Canadian artist began recording solo in the late 1990’s and has built a solid career over the years. Live in Europe clocks in at around 50 minutes and the 13 tracks were recorded at 4 concerts in Germany and Holland. Dekker is joined by a group of 4 players on guitars, bass and keyboards as she delivers folk oriented songs that visit a wide range of topics from matters of the heart (Blush, Boomerang) the price of commitment (The Price You Pay, Meant to Be), loss of innocence (Distant Star, At the Junkyard), communication breakdown (Flowers, Stare at the Rain) and philosophical musings (Maybe We’re the Angels).

David Sinclair plays guitars with some aplomb and his reputation as a member of Sarah McLachlan’s band gives him due respect and gravitas. The overall playing is both sensitive and subtle in service of these quiet vignettes of life, but the lack of any audience presence takes away from the fact that it is essentially a live recording. Muted applause and a few clipped song intros, do not add to the feel of the project. However, Melanie sings with a beautifully clear voice and the songs are worth repeated plays.

Jack Tempchin 'Learning To Dance' - Blue Elan Records

A Californian singer-songwriter, Tempchin is best known for his contributions to the Eagles songbook and has also written for a number of other bands and artists including Tom Rush, George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Glen Campbell. Learning to Dance is produced, recorded and mixed by Joel Piper, who does a fine job, and adds the majority of instruments and background vocals.

There is an easy tempo to these 12 songs, as if you were to mix a James Taylor vibe with a sleepy Tim McGraw. Tempchin sings with an effortless, sweet delivery and the production keeps things at a medium pace throughout.

The End of the Affair has a smooth jazz groove and the title track is tailor-made for country artists to cover. The songs are mainly about love and relationship matters, with the slow strum of Ain’t Nobody like You the perfect example. You Can Go Home is a song that visits the past and what gets left behind; it is one of the stronger songs with the reflection that ‘you can go home, but you can’t go back’. 

Finally Found Me is a quiet acoustic strum that speaks of finding an inner peace and Room to Run closes the set with a message to let your children develop their character and identity with only a gentle guiding hand.

This is a fine collection of songs that will appeal to a broad cross section of music listeners.