Subscribe to Minor 7th Webzine!

November & December Short Takes

Hank Harris "Here", Sunbunny 336, 2001 Hank Harris lives in these 12 songs like a prairie dog on the range. The South Dakota-based singer/songwriter sits as comfortable as 10-year-old jeans as he seamlessly segues from reggae to country to jazz to power pop to slinky blues on "Here," his second CD. Harris smoothly tosses off phrases such as "she's my MSG, my formaldehype" and "I was right on time when I missed you" like he's saying hello. A dazzling pop craftsman with a wry, pleasantly humorous take on the world, his songwriting hooks never come up empty. Harris's voice and fine musical cast will grow on you like ivy in New England. This keeper just gets better and better with each listening. ©Fred Kraus
Terry Callier "Alive", Mr. Bongo MRBCD19, 2001 Jazz-folk guitarist Terry Callier's live set from the Jazz Cafe in London presents a spirited overview of his storied career which has spanned four decades. On Alive he's accompanied by a seasoned septet that includes horn/woodwind, percussion, bass, and an additional guitar. Phrasing his vocals within the band's smooth interplay Callier displays a mastery of dynamics, at one moment scat-singing, another moment whispering, then breaking into a heartfelt wail to accent each lyric. Opening with "Ordinary Joe" the rhythm section breaks into a double-time swing groove as the Chicago native melds soul, gospel, and R & B with fervor. Addressing social issues in the haunting rendition of "African Violet", singing the blues in "You're Gonna Miss Your Candy Man", crooning on the romantic ballad "What Color Is Love", and drawing the audience to shout out "Amen' and 'Hallelujah" during a solo reading of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", Callier's expression of the human condition is honest and warm. His acoustic guitar playing is exemplary throughout each cut. Callier employs pedal tone arpeggios and sustained chords thickened with a chorus effects which allows his rhythm section plenty of room to embellish the songs with solos and multiple voicings. The album concludes with backing vocalist Veronica Cowper and Callier duetting on "I Don't Wanna See Myself" which evokes classic Motown as each singer soars higher and higher over a syncopated back-beat while guitarist Jim Mullen and sax man Gary Plumley improvise with clarity and enthusiasm. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better acoustic jazz concert album than Alive. ©Tom Semioli

Jennifer Daniels "Dive and Fly", TNtrees Music TN-00022, 2001 Jennifer Daniels is a folk-rock singer who pens intimate tales and sets them to intriguing melodies. Like Tori Amos, Paula Cole, and Delores O'Riordan, Daniels is an emotive singer with a voice that soars, cracks, and ascends into a stirring falsetto/vibrato with assertiveness and optimism. She and her band rock ala CSN & Y in the cuts "Day To Live", "Ohio" (no relation to the 4 Way Street classic) and "Daylight Running" with a solid in-the-pocket groove that bedrocks swampy slide guitars and shiny vocal harmonies. The title track, along with "Try To Find Me" and "River", depicts a captivating synthesis of acoustic guitar with a futuristic orchestral backdrop utilizing tape loops, a mellotron, cello, and mandolin. "He Dances" is an ethereal dirge which melds ambient guitars and tribal rhythms throughout a chilling tale of a relationship that is the stuff of Stephen King novels. Daniels even slips in a hidden acapella track, the traditional Irish song "Danny Boy" which gives evidence to the singer's strong roots and musical influences. "Dive and Fly" is a stellar collection from an artist that's primed for greener commercial pastures. Major labels please take note. ©Tom Semioli

James Emery "Luminous Cycles", Between the Lines btl 015, 2000 "Luminous Cycles" evokes a kind of metropolitan angst of profound reflection - cityscapes - a coffee house at 3 am. The tones spill into one another and the harmonies reach atonality in a fascinating display of structural and angelic hypertension. Some of the music is bold, the rest just very beautiful, soft even. Emery's guitar playing is staged as a ghostly reminder of the music's beginnings and endings. In order to fully enjoy this music one must have a degree of patience and an appreciation for complexity and atonality. Many of the selections make use of lots of wind instruments - saxophones, flutes, clarinets, while at the same time marimbas, vibes, and even a glockenspiel are used to juxtapose the deep bass rifts and Emery's signature guitar playing. The album features 8 compositions, each of which range somewhere between 7-12 minutes in length, and while every song contains its own musical "head," all of Emery's music has a wonderfully improvisational feel. ©Bernard Richter

Ken Bierschbach "Somewhere Out There", Bish 102, 2001 Ken Bierschbach knows how to jigsaw together a song so that the finished patchwork is seamless and genuine. Rampant on "Somewhere Out There" are Dan Fogelberg-like self-harmonies and hooks, minus the polished-to-a-shine production of latter-day Fogelberg. The resemblance on "That's Life" and "A Song Unsung" is so uncanny, in fact, that you might scratch your head wondering if Bierschbach is a Fogelberg ghost writer. There's an unfortunate tendency to fill musical deadspace between vocal lines with intrusive and redundant electric lead lines on this recording that might be better handled by keyboards, but it sounds easy to de-bug this one glitch. ©Alan Fark

Cyndie Hasty "Temptation", Kenjamin Music, 2001 Writing about love isn't quite like dancing about architecture, but it's close. Singer/songwriter Cyndie Hasty tries wrapping her arms around our most ephemeral and elusive emotion from a country-inflected perspective. On Temptation, her second CD, Hasty takes on several personas in songs that unfold like mini-short stories on this 12-track quest, from the regretful philosopher, to the one betrayed, to the vengeful one left behind. Best offering is her stellar, bluesy "Honey, Please Forgive." Its snakey guitar runs, fine piano and Hasty's earnest vocals combine for a shiver-inducing sincerity. Mostly a husky-voiced crooner, Hasty doesn't shy away from kicking it up a couple of notches in the foot-stompin' "Crossing the Land." ©Fred Kraus


Search the Minor 7th Archives!

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