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September & October Short Takes

Darren Curtis Skanson "Solamente Romanz", CCM 0102, 2001 This wonderful collection of traditional and new compositions for guitar and strings provides many unexpected surprises. From the opening track, an arrangement of the traditional Malagagueña, to original compositions like Samba Calienté and La Trinité the listener is treated to musical performances in the Spanish and neoclassical styles. Mr. Skanson displays fluid technique and tasteful skill in arrangement. I especially enjoyed the fiery original composition "Corazón Ibérico". ©Phillip Hemmo

blowuphollywood "blowuphollywood", 2002 "blowuphollywood" seems like an ironic moniker considering that the project comes across as a soundtrack for a film noir... though, ahem, certainly not a Hollywood film score. This music is somehow simultaneously as disturbing as it is beatific, conjoining dirgelike acoustic guitars, surrealistic strings and languorous vocal harmonies into tone poems which literally follow one individual's ethereal passage into afterlife. The mystery is reinforced by the artists' decision to reveal no credits, names or photos, a surprisingly egoless kowtow to the art considering the incredible professionalism of this production. Fans of Lisa Gerrard or Sigur Rós will like this. ©Alan Fark

Railroad Earth "Bird in a House", Sugar Hill Records SUG-3956, 2002 To describe the musical landscape visited by Railroad Earth merely as bluegrass fails to convey the spectrum of aural coloring that erupts from this talent-laden sextet. Rather, imagine a sound palette capable of creating "technicolorgrass." Instrumental wizards all, they jam tightly and smoothly on everything from banjo to dobro to mandolin to bass to pennywhistle to guitar, and even form their own little brass band. Add accomplished songwriting from a crew not afraid to have fun -- or to poke a little fun at themselves -- and the elements of a classic disc are well in place. Moreover, the plaintive vocals that recall Jerry Garcia makes this aural canvas glow like ultra tie-dye. © Fred Kraus Buy Bird in a House

Kerri Powers "You, Me and a Redhead", Leopard Skin Records 7001, 2002 Kerri Powers has the soul of a poet, penning lines as striking as "they'll come a time when you shake hands with the three piece suit that does you in." She also has the heart of a country girl who peppers her music with bass runs and tremelo while filling her lyrics with liberal doses of trucks, trains, beer, boots, and someone doin' someone wrong. With a voice two small punk steps to the left of Reba McIntire, she can be sweet ("Nolan's Song"), sassy (in the Cajun tinged "F-150"), and even downright mean ("Self-Made Man"). In "Daddy, Don't Fall Down," she takes a standard country theme -- a tribute to her working class dad á la "Coal Miner's Daughter"-- and gives it a poet's twist, putting us in the mind of the little girl worried about her father. Though Powers can be overly earnest at times, another characteristic of the genre, she generally succeeds in merging the instincts of her heart and her soul. © David Kleiner Buy You Me & A Redhead

George Robinson "Refuge", 2002 It's difficult to develop a novel sound on nylon-string guitar that hasn't already been done. George Robinson has accomplished this very feat, pioneering a unique trademark tone on "Refuge". Robinson uses a Roland VG-88 guitar processor to achieve an otherworldly and contemplative ambiance, sounding almost like Liz Story playing futuristic percussion pads rather than piano. The jewel of the CD is the opening track, "Highwire", an aptly-named vertiginous parry between suspense and aplomb. ©Alan Fark

Cristina Williams Band "What Did I Do?", Tylia Records 2002 Cristina Williams, whose voice is reminiscent of a more talented Sheryl Crow, has put together an album-length tribute to love and longing with her new album, "What Did I Do?" But while the songs all deal with these torchy themes, each track is its own unique entity. The title track exploits a catchy blues riff accompanied by Cristina's angry soprano, the lyrics hilarious and guitars wonderfully played, while "Make You Happy", one of the best of the album, makes full use of the band's range, employing Rob Karten on keyboards to take us all back to the music of sixties surfer movies. This album is a pleasure, well-suited to anyone looking to relax to a talent-filled alt-rock session with a beautiful voice to bring it all together. © Charles Krueger

Audra Kubat "Untitled for Now", Remedy Records AU2002, 2002 Though the world is seemingly overpopulated with folk singer-songwriters, Audra Kubat's "Untitled For Now" is a welcome respite from the usual self-indulgent blather that passes for a genre artistically and aesthetically run into the ground during the past decade or so. The opening cut "Someone Else" is refreshing not only for it's captivating melody and spirited performance, but for the fact that the song is actually about someone other than the singer! Akin to Beth Orton, Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, and Jeff Buckley, Kubat is an accomplished composer who paints vivid pictures with few words and embellishes her lyrics via warm harmonies. "Michelle," "Everyone's Waiting," "Urge To Go" and "Where Is Love" are among the many stand-out tracks that make "Untitled For Now" an essential listen. Major and prominent Indie labels should take note. ©Tom Semioli


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