Subscribe to Minor 7th Webzine!

Septembr & October Short Takes

Miracle Mile "Limbo," 2007 In his hey-day, Luther Vandross (or dare we say, Marvin Gaye or Bryan Ferry) couldn't have made a sexier record than "Limbo." Eternally hopeful romantics Trevor Jones and Marcus Cliffe (a.k.a. Miracle Mile) make pop rock music for grown-ups much like kindred spirits Crowded House, Beth Orton and David Gray. On their latest release, MM's penchant melodies are as strong as ever. Each cut is instantly hum-able and displays old-school studio guitar mastery (think George Harrison, The Wrecking Crew, The Funk Brothers) which translates as several simple acoustic and electric passages that seamlessly coalesce in to something much bigger. Don't be startled by occasional sampled percussion ("Way Back When," "Lights of Home") or a somewhat overt nod to Lou Reed at the beginning of "Yuri's Dream" or the smooth jazz "Step By Step." MM pulls it all off with nary a hitch -- which is what you would expect from such consummate musicians. The second best song utilizing the term "Plasticine" (sorry, Oasis) evokes a few Edge-like guitar lines and a rumbling back-beat that would make Shakira blush. What will they do next? © Tom Semioli

Erdem Helvacioglu "Altered Realities," 2006 Usually, electronic music is not acoustic music and vice-versa. On Erdem Helvacioglu's "Altered Realities" the twain meet, or rather collide, in an ambient wonderworld far away from your usual listening experience. Helvacioglu manipulates a lone signal from an Ovation Legend 1869 acoustic guitar with a multieffects processor, midi foot controller and Audiomulch software to create soundscapes in real-time to DAT with no overdubs or edits. The surprising results may be difficult listening for those who have never partaken of the likes of Brian Eno's 1980's recording "On Land," but for those with an open mind Helvacioglu's otherwordly improvisations scratch an unvarnished surface of beauty. © Alan Fark

Jamie Stillway "Winter Rings," 2007 Portland-based guitarist Jamie Stillway has made a name for herself in a short time in the Pacific Northwest. "Winter Rings" is Stillway's second solo release, and she continues to deliver an eclectic mix of sounds with an ensemble of fine supporting players. Stillway has been honing her skills for some time, and she provides herself a diverse musical palette to display them. She plays with her fingers (homage to her time spent with the great blues player Kenny Sultan) but she can flatpick hot and sweet when she needs to. Several tunes feature the sounds of resonator guitars, drawing us back in time. It's hard to categorize this music and that's one of its strengths. Take the opening track, "Banjo Mutation No. 5", a kind of Earl Scruggs dark side. "Coloniastic Carousel" begins sounding like you could find it in the air while sipping a demi-tasse on the Left Bank in Paris, but weaves modal jazz lines in and out, conjuring Django Reinhardt. It's jazz -- no, it's ragtime -- no, it's gypsy. It is all of these, and more. "Blue Crackerjack" is a brief interplay between resonator and alto sax. We are off and running on "Insomniac Sunrise", and we rollick on "Blackwood Rag". The title cut, "Winter Rings", brings yet another feel to this CD, calling to mind the early sounds of Windham Hill guitar works. This is music with attitude always, muscle when it needs it, spunk, and a healthy sense of humor. It's music you should listen to. © Kirk Albrecht

The Allens 2007 The Allens, a country/folk-based duo from Midland, Texas, turn in a gentle collection of 10 original tracks on their self-titled debut CD. Lyricist/vocalist Catherine Allen's heartfelt story-songs complement husband Jeremy Don Allen's compositions. Their work lives in same universe as Cowboy Junkies and Allison Kraus. Jeremy's acoustic guitar work is rounded out by a full band, including a sprinklng of tasteful pedal steel. Everything about this collection is structured to showcase the exceptional vocals of Catherine Allen. Her plaintive voice, ethereal yet real, with a hint of Texas, comfortably connects... her phrasing, especially on "Like I Should," is particularly evocative. While that track could be a probable top 10 hit on commercial country radio with a bit of tweaking, it's a wonderful listen just as it is. There is a pleasant pureness to this material. Nice stuff. © Fred Kraus

Adam Zwig, "Cast Iron Letters," 2007 Soothing music with troubling themes mark Adam Zwig's third solo release. Singer/songwriter by night, psychotherapist by day, the former guitarist for Shapeshifter presents a layered, low-key soundshape. Zwig's underplayed voice takes on such themes as the Iraq war (with the haunting "Who Killed Michael Vaughn?") as well as freedom, religion, relationships and our place in the world. Heavy stuff, but apt for his talk/sing style. At times he seems to channel Neil Young ("True Love"). He also moves in and out of rap voicings, especially notable on the moody "It's All Gonna Fall," a track which is actually included twice (once as an acoustic version). A pedal steel weaves throughout, sometimes giving the feel of a film score. This 13-track collection is as interesting amalgam that Zwig fashions, and it's all curiously compelling. © Fred Kraus

Tim Jenkins, "Yellow Folk Hillbilly," 2007 An "uncategorizable," quirky instrumental record, "Yellow Folk Hillbilly" combines old time sounds ("Don't Go to Florida"), smooth jazz, and straight-ahead jazz ("Catherine, So Uncertain"). Jenkins, playing a variety of stringed instruments, constantly challenges. "No Outlet's" sprightly little melody on the banjo passes through a series of variations that include notes out of time and key. In "Long Live the King," solo six string finger picking gives way to bass notes dueling with treble arpeggios supported by Jon Seligman's resonant percussion. Electric guitar and cymbals close the piece. On almost any cut, if you jump ahead a minute or so, something different is likely going on. The adventurous listener will find pleasure discovering how Jenkins journeys from one place to the next. © David Kleiner

Michael Mucklow, "The View from Here," 2007 For some, the guitar road leads from the solitary to the ensemble. For Michael Mucklow, years of playing, learning, and developing as a musician with other players led him to exploring the instrument on his own terms. With the release of "The View From Here", his second solo project, Mucklow plays songs that require the listener to stop and take in each note, each phrase, each idea. You can tell that these songs come from some place deep within, extending who Mucklow is and presenting it to us as a sort of offering we gladly accept. All of the songs are aided by a generous dose of reverb, which gives Mucklow a richer, fuller sound. The playing is neither flashy nor overdone, but sometimes almost bare in its approach, and for these songs, it works well. There are 11 tracks in all. "Phosphor" builds from a simple fingerpicked melody line to a rhythmic dance accompanied by a percussion track. "Mysterium" is a dark, haunting piece which wafts over the listener, drawing you into its slow movement. The early sky seeps into view on "Color of the Morning". "The View From Here" ends with the happy "Convertible", leaving you with a light, refreshed feeling. Michael Mucklow gives us a warm, solid offering of solo guitar music on this disc, music you can listen to. © Kirk Albrecht

Here's some other great music we received this month:

Dave Keir - Interim Reports
Sheila Swift - The Shape of Things
Jerry Krahn - Tell Me I'm Crazy
Virginia Wagner - Darkness Visible
Tom Smith - Juliet's Window
Brooks Geenen - Away
Joe Hutchinson - Just Another Folkin' Son of a Hutch
Shaun Fisher - Body & Soul
Mojacár Flamenco - Al Que Quiere
Jason LaRoy - A Beautiful Tomorrow
Suzy Callahan - Freedom Party for Insects
Rachel Margaret - Buena Vista Park
Rob Owen - Barefoot in the Rain
Tom Smith - Juliet's Window

Search the Minor 7th Archives!

Home | Podcast | Links | Archives | Submissions | Free CD Giveaway | Subscribe | About