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Archive for the category “Music Review”

Album Review: Ashlinn Gray ‘Self Titled E.P.’

Singer Songwriter Ashlinn Gray

Singer Songwriter Ashlinn Gray

By far the best part of my job as a reviewer isn’t hearing new music from big artists, although it’s fun to hear the progression of an artist. The best part of being a reviewer is hearing an artist that is new and has the potential to do amazing things. With this in mind I found myself excited to be listening to South African Born singer Ashlinn Gray for the first time with her first single ‘Battleships.’ Not only is it a catchy tune but it’s a slightly new take on the whole female singer songwriter patter that we hear and expect on the radio.

Battleships has a great little story attached to it as it’s not only the first single that Ashlinn has released (that will certainly help propeller her career) but it was the first song that she had ever written. How great is that?
Even at the tender age of 17 Ashlinn is showing a depth of sophistication that is well beyond her years. It would be easy for someone of her age and experience to bring out just a simple ballad laden E.P. with just a simple acoustic guitar and her well rounded vocals and be happy with it, but Ashlinn has proven she is beyond settling for mediocrity. She surrounds herself with a great band and has developed a sound that sits perfectly within an uptempo pop folk sound and power ballad.

Ashlinn has a voice that is both raw and powerful and yet shows such tenderness in emotion and a connection that again is beyond her years. We live on a planet where a majority of 17 year old kids are happy to sit at home in front of a screen of some sort and the only connection being made is via tweets and social media posts. Ashlinn is working hard balancing her school work and growing a career. Ashlinn, despite the life balance, is still able to connect on a deeper level. Songs like ‘Risking it All’ and ‘Closer Now’ show both the power and the tenderness possessed by someone so young and it’s intriguing.

I love how the E.P. ends with the track ‘Sugar Coated Lemons’ a great pop laced single that has a positive outlook to when life doesn’t go as expected. And while this fun little ditty could be seen as just another nice little pop song it shows the drive and the sense of motivation that Ashlinn has towards her fellow man. Ashlinn wants to connect, she wants to inspire, and she wants to motivate.

It seems that Ashlinn is already thinking bigger than herself already, and the wonderful thing is that if she’s creating this level of quality and depth of song writing now just imagine what she could accomplish. Imagine if Ashlinn inspired others like her to do the same. This world could be a much better place. Thank Goodness for that!

Album Review: Shannelee Ray ‘Life Boat E.P.’

Shannelle Ray 'Life Boat E.P.'

Shanelle Ray ‘Life Boat E.P.’

New Zealand has a rich history of cultivating young female singer/songwriters that are of international quality. Most recently you’ll likely recall Lorde and Kimbra who have become pop icons in their own right. However the stream runs much deeper than this with artists including Bic Runga, Anika Moa, Ginny Blackmore and  Brooke Fraser. All of these have added to the accumulated music knowledge and depth of the musical pool in this small country, and that’s what makes it such a strong musical nation.

Like Bic Runga (another Cantabrian) who released her ‘Love Soup E.P.‘ all the way back in 1995, Shannelee Ray has begun her musical career with a strong batch of songs in the form of an E.P.

The ‘Lifeboat E.P.‘ starts off with the familiar sound of an acoustic guitar strum before Shannelee’s vocals come in and build nicely to a chorus that is so catchy it’s hard to let it go… how kiwi is this?
Straight away you can’t help but make comparisons to the other great sing songwriters that have gone before her, however the great thing is that Shannelee MORE than lives up to any comparisons. The reality is that especially the Life Boat single, while a little lyrically naive, is radio quality.

Blue Skies, the second song on the E.P. follows the same recipe of fun lyrics and catchy melodies and could fit snugly on an album from an artist such as Colbie Caillat through to Ginny Blackmore.

At this point I think of how great the songwriting abilities are from Shannelee. There are surely worse songs from more well known artists that are getting radio play. It’s almost a travesty that when a particular style becomes popular that everyone pushes that direction and great songs are left in a file destined for ‘maybe when the style comes back’, but I’m all for hearing good songs regardless of trends and hearing albums like the Life Boats E.P. is surely good for your heart?

Shannelee shows her musical muscles by giving us songs that are fun and clever like ‘Starting a War‘and the lighthearted take on heartbreak ‘Pretty Dresses’, as well as giving us a sense of her musical depth with the simple and elegant ‘Take’ which is breathtakingly haunting and similar in style to the late Eva Cassidy.

As a music reviewer and social commentator I can’t help but reflect on what I’ve just heard with nothing but admiration. This is a superb E.P. from a local artist who is not just bringing out good quality sounds but music that is all ready to be packaged for radio play. Some artists are destined for the continued life of a struggling solo artist playing small gigs and a majority of people will never hear them. However in the case of Shannelee Ray I think there is enough to build on and develop.

Is it the perfect bunch of pop songs? Of course not. This is just a start of a very exciting journey, however it’s still better that some of the tripe that we have to sit through on the radio as we are stuck in the continued monotony of the drive to and from work.

These could be exciting times for Shannelee… but in the music scene, it’s all about getting the right breaks in the right time!
Fingers crossed!

If you would like to hear the ‘Life Boat E.P.’ from Shannelee Ray Click here!

Album Review: Heath McNease ‘Fort Wayne’ (Songs inspired by the film)

Heath McNease – Fort Wayne

Let’s face it, some people are just creative.

You know the type. They are the kind of people who just do things, not because they are trying to create something new or even cutting edge but just because they had an idea in their head and they figured they were the best person to get the job done.
Heath McNease is one of those guys. Growing up in South Georgia Heath has successfully tried his hand at rap and hip-hop, indie, folk and now acting and directing… the guy is over the top creative and it’s fun to watch.

Heath brings us ‘Fort Wayne’ a soundtrack of sorts (or at least a musical companion to the film of the same name).

Fort Wayne is a movie that tells the awkward story of an up and coming musician that is stuck in Fort Wayne who is struggling to find  his place in the entertainment word and discover who he is under all the masks and music.
The album ‘Fort Wayne (songs inspired by the film)’ is actually a lovely back drop to the sparseness of the film. The film is filled with travelling and time alone for the main character… and so it is with the music for this album, lots of destination songs.

Songs like ‘Georgia’ ‘Eastbound 94′ and ‘Coleridge’ are all songs that paint a picture of the journey, and the really great thing about the style of Heaths writing for this album is that you don’t need to have seen the film to get a picture in your head about the journey the main character is taking. It’s a lonely journey, it’s a journey filled with shadows and rain. Self discovery.
One of the best destination songs is ‘Upper Right’ in which Heath sings “Cause I dream of Upper right USA”. While many of these destination songs are folky and filled with space and shadow, ‘Upper Right’ starts to add some of Heaths trade mark play on words and symbolism “I dream of Lower Left USA , and you dream of Lower Right” – Heath is best when he’s at his most playful.

One of the things about albums like this are they are so topical to the film they are released to be along side is that there is often not much variation in style. However I think Heath is able to add enough into the mix that he is able to get it to sit as maybe a new modern take on the dark, ambient folk style of music that bands like American Music club or Grant Lee Buffalo made popular.

As an album I think this sticks pretty close to the brief ‘Songs inspired by the Film’s

Some times it’s great when an artist surpises you, Heath did this with his indie/folk album ‘The Weight of glory’ songs that were inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis, and then again with ‘The weight of Glory – the second edition’ an even better album blending the indie/folk style of the first album with a strong remixed rap and hip-hop again focusing on C.S. Lewis.

I think we forget that this album comes at the end of a busy time for Heath…. not only did he write, act and direct the film ‘Fort Wayne’ but he also did ALL the music for it also… he did it all.
It’s easy to be unimpressed with an album that doesn’t make us laugh or sing along too as some of Heaths other albums have done, as he leaves you wondering by how symbolic he was actually trying to be with his clever play on words.
So take this album as it is… and album of songs inspired by the film ‘Fort Wayne’ – a dark atmospheric folk album, that is filled with discovery and destination.
While the rain is running down your window, turn on this album and let your mind get taken away… a place of solitude.

 

Album Review: Tasman Jude ‘Green’

IndiePool_Digipak_Template_11x17One of the first pictures I ever saw of Bob Marley was him as a young ragamuffin with a motley band all standing around one microphone to record their latest jam. Reggae then was all about the people, for the people, from the people. It was simple music about love and peace and faith… not a revolution!

Tasman Jude’s latest album ‘Green’ reminds me of this.  Grass roots reggae… mainly acoustic and melodic.
Tasman Jude, made up of the intriguing combination of Bravehart (from Trinidad & Tobago) and Al Peterson (From Canada), is a reggae based group and this album is true to its reggae roots with enough other stuff thrown in to keep things interesting.

Green is an album that is the perfect compliment to summer or to warm the heart of the home during a cold bitter winter.
Tracks like ‘Green (Zion)’, ‘Yahweh’ and ‘Every Breath’ stick closely to the classic reggae blue print with a steady off-beat that makes you nod your head as the reggae vibe takes over. It’s great hearing these tracks in a pure acoustic setting when often reggae based albums are filled with over dubs and dub based gimmicks that might be better left unsounded. Tasman Jude are mainly acoustic so creating the space adds it’s own fun dynamic.

Tasman Jude really show their worth when they expand the acoustic reggae flare with touches of ska and shuffle. Tracks like ‘Freedom is Rising’ are reminiscent of early Jamaican reggae masters such as Ernest Raglin who pioneered the early reggae rhythmic guitar style that has become so recognizable and helped make The Wailers a household name. In fact ‘Freedom is Rising’ is one of the stand out tracks on this album with its proud chorus and the gentle groove that weaves its way through the track.

However it’s not all about reggae here and there is always a place for a fun, obvious crowd pleaser such as the bands namesake track ‘Tasman Jude’ that would completely come to life in a live setting. It’s tracks like this that make you realise that this is a band that have cut their teeth in a hard live market, where it’s all about getting a crowd to hear your sound and fill your hat after the show. It’s a shame that this style doesn’t translate as well on a recording, however I kind of like the fact that Tasman Jude have put tracks like this on the album, not just as a filler but as an offering of what could be.

I have to be honest, this album isn’t perfect, but that lack of perfection is one of the best things about the album.
There are so many groups who are making albums that are so polished that hearing them live is almost a let down. Hearing an album like this makes music seem fun and relaxed and achievable.
There are times when music is there to push you in new directions and challenge you but sometimes music is there to bring you to that happy place, back to the warm, the comfortable, and the familiar.

One Love xx

Album Review: Malcolm Gordon ‘The Cobblers Grandson’

The Cobblers Grandson

The Cobblers Grandson

Often at the start of formal gatherings in New Zealand a mihimihi is given… A mihimihi is a basic introduction to let people know a little bit about yourself. It tells people where you are from and who you are by sharing your whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. To know one’s whakapapa is to know one’s identity.
It’s the story behind the name, it’s the pain behind the smile, it’s the things in your life that have woven themselves to help make you exceptionally YOU.

So what does this have to do with an album review about ‘The Cobblers Grandson”? … well nothing… and everything.

‘The Cobblers Grandson’ is the latest offering from New Zealand worship leader and songwriter Malcolm Gordon. Well known for writing thoughtful, melodic music for use in worship and spiritual reflection, Malcolm has taken a turn down the singer/songwriter alleyway.

And this is his family history… His mihimihi if you like.

Approaching this album, I initially listened to it as if it were any other album. That in itself was beautiful, purely as an album of songs. However the magic of the album was that the more you listen to it,the more it became so much more… a family photo album… a book of family history… a gallery of moments in time that have shaped a family, a generation, a man.

The album starts off with the track ‘Oh My Heart’ that sets the tone for the album with a lyric that both draws you into the story and also seems to challenge you:

“‘You weren’t to know how far you’d gone… adventure called you ever farther on”

It’s clear right from the outset that this is not Malcolm’s typical album.

The album tells a story exploring themes of origins and heritage through Malcolm’s trade mark haunting style that is laced with the celtic tones that echo his previous offerings.

The songs that really work best are the songs like the title track ‘The Cobblers Grandson’ and ‘Ash to Ash’. These are the quieter,  more ‘folky’ songs that are so sparse that you find yourself listening to the track as if it was actually a story being told to you… which of course is exactly what is happening.

Many of the songs are far more sparse than Malcom has dared before. Often the tracks rest on just an acoustic guitar sitting hauntingly behind his vocal with nothing more than the drone of a cello or some piano used sparingly to add more depth or tension. Once again Kirstin Cant adds perfectly timed backing vocals and harmonies.

The pinnacle of the album is the first single ‘Hey Stranger’. This is  the most pop style song on the whole album and is all about being a great neighbour. The chorus has a kids’ choir accompanying Malcolm with the words:

“Hey Stranger, Hey Neighbour, you don’t need wings to be my angel”

Some people might question Malcolm’s new direction on this album.

Why would someone move from a place where they were writing songs for church, and writing them well?

Actually I wonder if the question should be, why aren’t more people doing this?
The obvious answer is simply that not everyone is as talented and theologically grounded as Malcolm.
This direction is a sign of someone who isn’t interested in just having a good idea… but listening to GOD ideas, and having faith that God who gave the vision will also give the provision for it.

I think there is certainly a place for ‘church songs’ or ‘spiritual songs’ but the best way to reach people is through story telling. Wasn’t the best example of a storyteller Jesus himself with his parables and testimonies?
So why won’t we combine it with an international and spiritual language like music?
Doesn’t this seem like the most logical step?

“Let me tell you a story of what has happened to me… the pain, the hardship and this is what gave me the strength to get through it”
This is the best kind of story isn’t it?

I left this album thinking I wish I could see this as a soundtrack to a movie or a stage show… this is already a beautiful back drop to a wonderful story.
I can’t wait to hear the next chapter.

Release date October 4th, and can be ordered at onevoice.org.nz in the meantime
Or after October 4th it can be purchase at iTunes, bandcamp and Manna Christian stores.

Album Review: Switchfoot ‘’The Edge of the Earth’

Switchfoot – ‘The Edge of the Earth’

Have you ever listened to an EP (or album) of B sides and thought, “Wow I know why they left that off the last album”?
Often the songs just aren’t up to the standard of the rest of the album.

This is NOT the case for ‘The Edge of the Earth’

Earlier this year (2014) Switch-foot essentially released a soundtrack to their Rockumentary ‘Fading West’, a film that followed the band on it’s quest for the perfect gig, balancing life and finding the perfect wave.
‘Fading West’ was a departure from some of their heavier rock sound for something more ‘pop’ fueled. While this left a few long term fans wondering if rock and roll had died, those with more of an holistic approached would have seen how well it worked as the back drop to a bigger story for the film.

‘The Edge of the Earth’ is the songs that never made it to the soundtrack album.
As I mentioned before I had gone in expecting an EP of average songs, thinking, “Yep well I can see why THAT song never made the album”. What I discovered were songs that just wouldn’t have fit the rest of the ‘Fading West’ album; they would have been a distraction.

The EP starts off with ‘Fading West’, the song that spawned the idea for the film of the same name. It’s almost a bit comical that it never made the actual album, however it was a good idea hearing the make up of the original soundtrack.

A lot of these newer tracks are a bit darker than what the rest of the full length album has to offer.

‘Against the Voices’ is pretty close to the bone, and it’s great to hear a band really reveal themselves (maybe U2 could learn from Switchfoot).
Jon laments in ‘Against the Voices’, “Cause everybody knows, the hardest war to fight is a fight to be yourself  when the voices try to turn you into someone else”. Then in ‘Skin and Bones’ he sings “Apocalyptic skies, Burning gold
I walk these empty miles, I can’t find a soul”.
These are some of the darkest themes that Switchfoot have confronted… and it’s pretty full on, especially once you have already relaxed to the fun loving Fading West song that starts the album.

The band try something new as Tim Foreman (Jon’s brother) takes the lead vocals for the first time on the song ‘What it Cost’.

This is a great stand alone EP that works as a companion to the Fading West album/Soundtrack. In fact this is what artist should strive to make EP’s sound like. EP’s shouldn’t be an artists throwaways just to get extra cash but a reward to fans to show that they are appreciated but also to show another side of a band that is separate to their larger bodies of work… another glimpse into the story of a band.

This is a great EP showing what a great songwriters the Foreman boys have grown into.
As Janis Joplin famously sung, “Take another little piece of my heart now baby”.
This seems to be what Switchfoot do best… they give it all!

 

Album Review: U2 ‘Songs of Innocence’

u2Have you ever wondered what one of the worlds best bands look like when they lose their creativity?
Or not even lose their creativity, but see a light fade?
When they find it hard to keep up with the new innovators?
It happens to them all right?
When you go to a Rolling Stones concert you want the old tracks don’t you?
You want to hear ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, ‘Satisfaction’ and the list goes on.
Are we seeing this with U2?
I mean, ‘Joshua Tree’ was one of the biggest albums in the 80’s and between ‘Achtung Baby’ and the whole ‘Zoo TV’ experience we were always in touch with what U2 were doing.
Joshua Tree came out of the fabric of life we were all living in… great songs and perfect timing, it almost took us by surprise…’ Achtung Baby’ was confronting and challenging and we couldn’t look away.
So where does this leave ‘Songs of Innocence’?

Lets be honest, shall we?
Now I love U2 and they have formed a large part of my musical library and music based memories, however I’m not going to give a band a great review just because that band just happens to be U2.
That’s fair right???
Credit where credit is due!
In saying this I think U2 still have some amazing things to offer…

We don’t REALLY care about an artists past and, although there are a few songs that mean something to us, it’s the whole dynamic of the song that draws us in.
When I hear that this is the most ‘honest’ album that U2 has put forward I think, “Well, that’s great… but Taylor Swift does the same!!!”
We live in a society that wants us to cry and to go deeper. It wants us to think, to activate, to rally, to shout, to sing like we mean it, to breathe, to smile and to let it get under our skin.
The reality is that all this has done to us is made us shut it all off!
We’re cautious. We’ve been burnt before by people who have promised it was real, and we now feel duped.

We want more than just a nice story. We want blood, and the soul that was poured out for it!

‘Songs of Innocence’ takes us back. It relives the awe that Adam, Larry, Edge and Bono felt at a Ramones concert – the crunch of the guitar, the rock and roll.
And at times you can almost hear the young soul of U2… the same young soul that gave us albums like Boy and War and October. The soul that dreamed of changing the world…  you can hear it still in there.
The first single ‘Miracle’ brings us in with the fuzzed out crunch guitar of The Edge, and the guitar sounds great in it’s natural habitat… crunching… roaring…
The album continues in this rock vein until it’s broken up by the ‘Song for Someone‘ where Bono reflects:

And I’m a long way from your hill on Calvary
And I’m a long way from where I was, where I need to be

It’s great to hear Bono being honest without all the bravado and mystery.
Sometimes the best way to sound sincere is just to be sincere. Sometimes you just want people to say what they REALLY mean!
A perfect example of this was ‘Sometimes you can’t make it on your own’ from the 2004 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’. Bono just tells it like it is. So Bono, why now all the mystery and rhyme?

It feels like half of this album is U2 struggling to be young and full of energy while somehow dealing with the fact that their bones are creaking and they have to pee more often during the night.
They’re almost there… but not quite!

Raised by Wolves’ is the turning point on this album – everything seems to sit down and U2 find their stride.

‘Songs of Innocence as an album fits somewhere between How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon ,but with sounds that hark back to when ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ was crossing the radiowaves. In fact songs like ‘Raised by Wolves’ sound like more polished versions of some of the all guns blazing songs that came from albums like ‘War’ and ‘Joshua Tree’… almost 80’s in their feel.
And it made me wonder.

Is U2 now confined to the freedom it has made it’s name for?
Sunday Bloody Sunday‘… “This is a revolutionary song…” Bono screams on the live Under a Blood Red Sky album, and at the time, it was ACTUALLY a revolutionary song.
Zoo TV tour took the whole live gig thing and tipped it on it’s head. It was ironic. It was like holding a mirror up to society. It touched a nerve. ‘POP  laughed at our consumerism. U2 laughed with us as we continued to make them famous. Ironic.

However, now they’re known as a political band. They’re a yearly Band-aid concert with just one band.

I like that U2 with this album is choosing to be less.

There are songs on this album that are well crafted. In fact the whole second half of the album could stand alone as an EP.
Is this a good album?
Yes, I think so.
Is it a great album? I think only time will tell, although it’s certainly not U2’s best.
I really hope the band takes time to  “go away and… just dream it all up again”

U2 are best when they are taking on the world, and not a band that is reacting to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review: David Lyle Morris ‘Northland’

David Lyle Morris 'Northland'

David Lyle Morris ‘Northland’

In our culture we place a lot of focus on the past, and rightly so.
The past doesn’t define us, but often the past reminds us of the things that are important to us and that knowledge gives us the confidence to step into the future. In ancient cultures they used to make monuments or altars in memory of these important things. We live in culture now that doesn’t do that as much. We are a culture of story tellers and troubadours.

This brings us to ‘Northland’, the latest offering from Kiwi singer/song writer David Lyle Morris, who once again brings his relaxed style to the table….
It seems fitting that David starts the album with looking back and tracing his musical genesis. He gives us a glimpse of how he was shaped by friends and family and events in his life with the song ‘Music in Me’ and ever so gently tips his hat to God to say “But God… through all of this you have placed the music in my heart”.

Those who are used to listening to David ‘s mainly James Taylor-esque acoustic style will be pleased to know that there is plenty here to keep you happy, with tracks like ‘After a While’ and ‘I am yours’. These tracks are simply crafted and beautifully played.
A special track and a real highlight of the album is ‘Bluebird’ – the song full of sorrow and promise all wrapped in one beautiful package. ‘Bluebird’ poetically balances the tensions of the tough times here on Earth with the promise of the freedom of Heaven. This is something that often is mentioned to me about David’s music… how he can take such a tough subject like suffering and death or sickness and place it a real positive light. It’s a tough thing to do however David is able to do it tenderly without making sound cheesy or trivial.

One of the first things that grabbed me about this album was “wow the boy’s found the blues again… and he makes it rock too.”
David fills his latest offering with sound from his past.
You’ll hear sounds influenced by Dire Straights on tracks like ‘Somewhere Someone’ and also some great blues influenced rock shining through on this album too. ‘What Goes Up’ could easily fit into the mix of a Stones album or maybe even  ZZ Top.
Guitarist Teemu Viinikainen really takes the lead on these rockier tracks and forms a great platform of groove and drive for David to sit upon. You know a guitarist understands the brief of the songwriter when you find yourself saying “Mmmm niiice” against your will.

Once again David is able to help craft an album that tells a story…. a story of love, of life,  of the loss of his homeland New Zealand and his friends in other far-flung countries.
I love the mixture of David’s hallmark acoustic style and a rockier edge that is showcased on this album, especially the  really bluesy feel that shines through.

With David I love how the tracks aren’t perfect. That in itself is perfect. It lends to you hearing the emotion and tension of any individual track…. that’s what you want.
You want real life… you want authentic… you want heart… and when an album is over produced you don’t get that.

Welcome to the journey.
Past and present, light and dark…  packaged in this beautiful album.

If you want to by the album check out davidlylemorris.com
(also available on iTunes)

Album Review: Corban Samuels ‘Death To Birth Part 2′

Death To Birth Part IIAn eerie drone builds over the tinkle of what sounds like a toy piano… the  sound building and growing, setting up the start of the second chapter of this dark world… the illusion… the journey… the story… the mystical world of Corban Samuels. Welcome to Part 2 of the dark ‘other worldly’ place that Christchurch songwriter Sam Reed has created with his Death to Birth E.P.’s under the name Corban Samuels.

Keeping true to the first album, Sam has kept the cinematic approach. While this approach has it’s strength, as in the way you read each chapter of a book in order, it means that the album is not really one you listen to for your favourite single. While others have had this sort of approach to writing  ‘concept albums’, I have yet to hear something put together in such a story-like flow as this is. It’s great to know that Sam had the sense not to disrupt the story with what would have only been a filler or hit single. Sam gets it…. when you’re creating something so cinematic, so grand, so dark, you’re taking people on a journey. You can’t let the illusion go, otherwise people will snap out of the world that you have created around them. This is a dark album, although not as dark as Death to Birth Part 1, which in some parts was quiet uncomfortable (especially if you were listening at home alone in the dark).

Sam sets up the album with over four minutes of instrumental. This works well with this style of album. It’s like watching the title sequence of your favourite thriller music, or maybe Harry Potter movie.

The first words that are uttered on the album come at the start of the 3rd song called ‘Tonight’. “Dear Friend, those tears you cry are not wasted at all” . The vulnerability of the song draws you in as Sam sings, “Let me Dance with you, let me hold you tight, let all your cares be forgotten tonight” – it’s sweet, yet it’s dark. It’s like listening to a love song in a Tim Burton movie…. it’s endearing, but like lovers caught in the dark.

For maybe the first time over the 2 E.P.’s ‘On the Outside’ gives us some light, some hope to the story. It feels like the clouds are parting and the rain has stopped. You can almost feel rays of light touching the skin of the players of this story which you have become a part of.

The album finishes with the same cinematic approach to the start of the album… a great book end.

The closest thing I can think of in the concept style of music that Sam comes with is the music that ex-DC Talker Kevin Max has brought out the in the past. Sam brings a very alternative or indie pop rock approach to the table and while it’s great to see someone putting out stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into the mainstream music market, it has to be a lonely road. This is not the kind of music to make friends and influence people… these are albums that challenge you musically, challenge you mentally… challenge you!

Great work Sam for sticking to your guns. You really can’t do concept albums like this half pie and you have taken leap of faith needed for this.

 

(To see the review for Death to Birth Part 1 click HERE)

Album Review: Crowder ‘Neon Steeple’

Crowder ‘Neon Steeple’

Dear Mr Crowder;

Thank you for the delivery of the album ‘Neon Steeple’, an offering that you pointed to being that of  “… the sound of the Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808.” – phew, that in its self is a huge undertaking. For that alone I tip my hat to you sir.

I have to say that I have been eagerly waiting the arrival of this album. I marveled at what magical collaborations you would be able to put together with such a broad theme… Porch Music meets electronica… wow… the possibilities are endless.

We already knew that you were a great songwriter – the vast catalogue of music that you collected as part of the group David Crowder*Band would attest to that fact. This wasn’t where my intrigue was focused. I was wondering “How are you going to make this work, Mr Crowder?”.
Thinking back to your past work I remember the award winning David Crowder*Band album  ‘A collision or (3+4=7)’. I remember similar combinations with great fondness.

And so it was with much anticipation that I played through the album ‘Neon Steeple’ for the first time.

I love how the album starts off with a brief acoustic song as an intro… it was great.
However when you used synthesized hand claps at the start of the song ‘My beloved’ I became a bit weary. I had heard this sound before, and then to my shock you took me to somewhere between 1994 and 1999. I didn’t know if I was about to shuffle to ‘Cotton eye Joe’ by the Rednex or ‘We like to party’ by the Venga Boys.
Fortunately the insanity is brought back to the ground with the single ‘I AM’ – this Mr Crowder is a great song. Do more if this!

My poor heart… More synthesized clap like rhythms start the song ‘Come Alive’ . Thank you so much for not rehashing the late 90’s for this. This actually feels like a ‘Church Music’ tune from your past band. ‘Church Music’ with a country tip…
(I’m sorry to bring up the past band however this is a good reference, I believe)

Bless your heart… More synthesized hand claps!
Mr Crowder you do understand that just because you have said that you want to make the album both digital and electronic that you can still have people actually clapping their hands?
I love the music. I love the lyrics. I love the depth of the song. Please Mr Crowder, sir, give us rest from claps that are manipulated by the robots that will someday take over this world.

Come as you Are is a wonderful song, a powerful song. It showcases songwriting in it’s purest form.
It’s simple. It’s both majestic and humbling.
“So lay down your burdens, Lay down your shame, All who are broken, Lift up your face”
Great work Mr Crowder.

(Mr Crowder, I’m not sure if you realise this but The Wiggles or some other kids band invaded your album.’Hands of Love’ – please Mr Crowder lets not do this again or better still lets save this type of song for your kids album. This may be a great plan B if you are starting to consider retirement.)

The Song ‘My Sweet Lord’  is so nice… Miss Emmylou Harris still has it doesn’t she?
What a wonderful thing it is to hear those sweet harmonies… She’s a keeper Mr Crowder!!!

Everything was going great until ‘You Are’. I hear the song building up and I find my self yelling “Don’t go ooonse ooonse”
But my cries fell on the def ears of the 90’s nightclub gods, who not only gave me the obvious ‘on the floor beat’ but slapped me in the face with syncopated synthesized hand claps.
Mr Crowder you are both a saint and villain in one small package.

Some songs on this album just work because of their simpleness… and because of this they become more powerful.

In conclusion Mr Crowder I’m not sure if this album is more  human like Luke Sky-walker or More Robot like Darth Vader.
Lyrically it magical, it’s whimsical, it’s poetic.
Musically it’s melodic, it’s southern, it’s full of toe tappers.
I’m not always convinced that the marriage of the 1’s and 0’s (as you put it Mr Crowder) always work with the soul and heart of the south.  However, in saying that, this may be like any good marriage and need time to develop.

Thank you Mr Crowder for taking the time to bless us with your music.
I look forward to hearing more in the future.

Peace and Grace
Goose

 

 

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