Thursday, May 28, 2015

CD Review - European Band HATFUL of RAIN - Way Up On The Hill

By: Niall Toner

When it comes to naming a Band, folks seem to be getting more and more creative, and this group of fine Musicians from Brighton in England, are certainly no exception. 

Hatful Of Rain are a four piece outfit who perform Old Time style Music, for the most part composed by the Band themselves, and to a very high standard indeed. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CD Review of Springfield Exit—THAT WAS THEN

Image635670036044847754That Was Then is the latest release by the Virginia based Bluegrass group, Springfield Exit. This offering consists of fourteen cuts with all but one of those (the Bob Dylan jam chestnut, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere) feature the lead vocal talents of Linda Lay.

This project features Ms. Lay so much that the group could actually be called Linda Lay and Springfield Exit and that is not a bad thing. Her singing is ‘spot on’ with regard to pitch, tone and good taste. Her vocals are easy to listen to and, at least on this CD, she doesn’t attempt material that is ill suited for her vocal range or out of step with her artistic persona (no head-banging or rich, syrupy lyrics). Linda’s material, here, is largely thematic, laid-back and allegorical.

Ms. Lay is accompanied by her husband, David, on guitar and vocals; Tom Adams on banjo; David McLaughlin on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar and vocals and Marshall Wilborn on bass. All are seasoned musicians and their performances here are nothing short of excellent.

CD Review of Hillwilliams—HILL YEAH

Image635670037127319667Hillwilliams is a Bluegrass group from the Portland, Oregon area. Their release of Hill Yeah consists of ten cuts, of which seven are original compositions and three are instrumentals. The cast for this production was Rich Landar on Mandolin and vocals. He also engineered and produced the CD. Matt Franzen plays banjo and sings. Jeffree White plays acoustic guitar and also does vocals. David Gerow plays fiddle and Bernardo Gomez plays upright bass.

The overall feel of the project is homemade, original and within the general parameters that most folk would call Bluegrass. They combine to create some nice work, making good use of their strengths, which is arranging and composing. Rose City Waltz, composed by fiddler, David Gerow, is quite an intricate piece that I can imagine being a fine contest fiddle selection. Mr. Gerow also wrote another of the other instrumentals, Ratty Old Hat, which has an upbeat, swing feel and quite a number of chord changes. Banjoist Matt Franzen plays a strong break on this one, as does bassist, Gomez.


Image635670022972920082Previous to this listening experience, I had never heard Pokey LaFarge’s music, though I have ‘Bluegrass friends’ that strongly favor his work. Something in the Water offers up twelve cuts, about half of which are original compositions from Mr. LaFarge. It is superbly produced and professionally tracked. Balance and tone are exceptional and the overall sound quality is warm and comfortable.

First off, it think it would be fair to say that nothing on this CD remotely resembles Bluegrass music, even by the most liberal artistic standards. It is roughly a blend of Blues, Dixieland Jazz, Swing and Folk music performed with hardly any instruments that might traditionally be associated with Bluegrass. No five-string banjos, fiddles or mandolins, that I could detect, though it sounded like Pokey used an upright bass and acoustic guitar on at least some of the cuts. There are brass horns, tenor banjo, electric guitars, lap steel and a host of other instruments that even the most drug-crazed Bluegrass aficionado would reject as incapable of making a contribution to Bluegrass music.

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