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November & December Short Takes

The Brightwings "Stay," 2006 Very few bands can get away with the line "Hall needed Oates / Columbus needed boats / all I need is you," but there's something in the New England air that makes this decidedly upbeat ensemble ply more than enough infectious pop melodies to overcome such seemingly inane word-play. Borne of the remnants of successful alt-rockers Missing Joe ("Dawson's Creek," "Making The Band") the Brightwings take their artistic cue from country-rock classicists such as The Eagles, Tom Petty, and CSNY. With acoustic guitars blazing and lush three-part harmonies, "Stay" emerges as a timeless statement. Whether it's the Stonesy riffs in "Leave You" or the pretty descending chord progression of "Mallory" which majestically resolves in a major key flourish, Brightwings do not re-invent the wheel, but they certainly make "Stay" worth the ride. Kudos for covering Danny Loggin's "Please Come To Boston." © Tom Semioli

Leslie Bowe "Gypsy," 2006 If Donny Hathaway had played guitar rather than piano, he may have made music like this. Especially on "Here With Me" Leslie Bowes channels a hint of Hathaway's soulful spirit. Others might likewise draw comparisons to Sam Cooke. "Gypsy" is Bowes' third singer-songwriter release, and is totally earnest and genuine. © Alan Fark

Pat Wictor "Heaven is So High (And I’m So Far Down)," 2006 Pat Wictor finds inspiration in the intersection between gospel and the blues. He also plays some pretty wicked lap steel that alternately shimmers and shivers. His Guild DV-52 and bottleneck grace his originals and makes covers of blues ("Come Back Baby") and singer/songwriter tunes like Bob Dylan’s "Oxford Town," his own. This all works on record thanks to the great guitar sound producer Gene Goldsmith gets. Wictor gets terrific support from guests like Red Molly’s Abbe Gardner and the too far under the radar Joe Jencks, who sings (I kid you not) alto, tenor, and bass (and did the vocal arrangement) on "Raise My Voice and Sing," one of Wictor’s anthemic originals you might hear sung around campfires, years from now. © David Kleiner

Various Artists "Toronto Fingerstyle," 2006 The explosion of fingerstyle guitar music over the past couple decades has been met with a parallel rise of societies dedicated to the exploration of this expressive form of acoustic guitar playing. So you find groups of committed players in major cities across North America, Europe, and even into the developing world, meeting, playing, recording, and hosting some big names for concerts and clinics. One of North America's more active groups is the Toronto Fingerstyle Guitar Association, and they have released a compilation CD of some of the best of their own numbers, and darned if there isn't some fine playing on this recording. These players have been in the woodshed honing their chops, making this a fine collection of guitar music with various styles represented. The 12-track CD begins with the quirky "Mr. Skippy Pants" by David Gillis; I could see a five year old dancing around in delight at his jazz-inflected chord changes. Ira Quinsey's "Catfood" reminds me of the vibe of another fine Canadian fingerstylist, Alex Houghton, in quick chord changes with single-note runs. Noah Zacharin's "Charolotte's Gate" is a lovely meandering melody. Other notable cuts include the pretty nylon-stringed "When I Had Wings" by Dunstan Morey, "Hands Together" by Jeff Goldberg, reflecting one of Canada's finest Don Ross, and the final cut, "Flame" by Mark Sepic, and undulating 7-minute ramble with forays into classical and flamenco idioms. While these may not be top-name professional players, it's a great gift of music from the hands of those who love to play. © Kirk Albrecht

David Buckingham, "The View," 2006 Nylon-string guitarist David Buckingham blends contemporary classical, flamenco and Latin jazz on "The View," his debut CD. The mood segues from dreamlike ("Waterscape") to celebratory ("Brisa Flamenca"), joyful ("The View") and back to dreamlike ("Agua Clara") over the course of the disc. "The View" is a full-circle display of six-string talent. © Alan Fark

Dave Potts, "$12.99," 2006 Contemplative stories rich with detail are the center of this wonderful CD. He's a little David Wilcox in his presentation, with a warm voice similar to his but with fewer open tunings. He's no pale imitation, though; his songwriting chops rival the better known folk singer. Rob Seal's excellent production provides arrangements of tastefully played acoustic guitars, Dobro, mandolin, light percussion and more. In an easy conversational style, accessible but creative, Dave sings about every day life -- baseball, fishing, his backyard, love -- in a way that amplifies every piece as important. And oh those lyrics. In "Ferris Wheel" he sings, "I know when my feet finally hit the ground I will not remember the coming down." And in "Amanda Bramlett," "She had the kind of smile red roses were made for." Amen. Buy this CD. © Jamie Anderson

Robin Horlock Band "EP," 2006 Robin Horlock Band's eponymous five-song EP is about wanting to be the next big thing. This is commercial rock with a touch of pop, the kind of music you hear on a station that ends with an "X." Horlock sings well, kind of an arena style, and the mix is expertly processed rock. The opener, "Why Do I," sounds like recent Hootie and the Blowfish -- which I would never have known had I not recently reviewed them on this 'zine. Track 2, "Never Be Alone," rolls out a wounded pop presence that -- call me crazy -- evokes Boy George. Kudos to lead guitarist Kenny Sams for some nice tones and licks on this CD. The question is what causes music like this to stand out from the pack? Maybe attitude, maybe vision, or creativity, or chops. Of the choices above, this band probably leans mostly on chops, though in fact the harmonic structure of this stuff is pretty simple. This band is gonna rock 'em at the suburban rock palace. We'll see if that's enough to make it onto the station with the X at the end. © Steve Klingaman

Adam Fallon "Slightly Used," 2006 This seven-song release by Ontario-based singer-songwriter Adam Fallon features his expressive voice working through a tuneful, well-executed program. The style is indie pop with acoustic underpinnings and rock leanings. His métier is early twenties angst with a bit of drama à la, say, Adam Duritz, minus the well-honed lyricism. One can imagine he does quite well with a female audience -- hey, that's a compliment. The drama is highlighted by arrangements that rely on acoustic and electric guitars in a four-piece ensemble with a little synth on the side. The opening track, "Sweet Dreams," states the case quite nicely and is followed to good effect by the signature ballad chords of "Someday (as far as the eye can see)." The latter track is only slightly marred by the overblown power-fuzz wash of the chorus that says "indie rotation please." Heavy hitter aspirations are also apparent in the thirteen minute big-palette epic of the closer "Pouring Rain" that recalls Hootie and the Blowfish. You can sometimes hear the seams in the production as in the acoustic-Springsteen synth treatment of "Gravity" that doesn't quite sit properly in the mix. But don't fault him -- Bruce pays a lot more money for his synth lines. The lyric here is a little raw, including the phrase "...since the day your casket closed." Fallon sports an impressive tour schedule on this website that reveals an artist hard at work getting the word out. This should give him time to sharpen his lyric perspective. Working it out on the road is never a bad thing. © Steve Klingaman

Tina Malia, "The Silent Awakening," 2006 In her recently released CD "The Silent Awakening", Tina Malia displays musical prowess on the steel string guitar, 12 string guitar, piano, hammer dulcimer, marimbas and "miscellaneous etcetera." The beautifully packaged CD draws one in with its ethereal quality at first glance. Listeners are not disappointed by what lies within. As proof that producing excellent music indeed "takes a village" she includes instrumental and vocal work of many contributing artist friends, who play everything from six string guitar and pedal steel (Robert Powell), violin (Darol Anger) to clay pots and didgeridoo. Her lyrics evoke both sounds and visions of nature, leaving the listener with their feet on the ground and their head in the clouds. This is a work not to be missed by "those who serve beauty" as her dedication reads. © Kate Shepard

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

Michael Johnathon - Evening Song
Matt Macaulay
King Platypus - Life's a Mess, Let's Dance
Sandor Szabo - The Art of the 16-String Guitar II
Vayo - Tango Legends
Steffen Basho-Junghans - Late Summer Morning
James Durst - Internationally Unknown
Pineross
Rich Schroeder - Your Kind Words
Darren Deicide - Temptation & the Taboo
Rick Ruskin - Perfect Pitch
Mark Brine - I Deliver




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