Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cranford Hollow - Color/Sound/Renew/Revive (2017)

OFFICIAL: http://www.cranfordhollowmusic.com/

Written by Ed Price, posted by Jason Hillenburg

South Carolina outfit Cranford Hollow, led by vocalist/songwriter John Cranford, has impressed countless listeners and live audiences since their 2011 debut and their evolution from a relatively traditional minded outfit into what they are today is one of the most satisfying artistic paths any band has taken in recent memory. Their latest album Color/Sound/Renew/Revive is an aptly titled effort because it is a collection full of vivid sonic moments refurbishing long-standing traditions and breathing new life into forms and artistic characteristics many erroneously believe to be moribund. John Cranford and his band mates prove there is plenty of creative life left yet in the whiskey and blood, kick out the footlights tradition initially bringing them together and, moreso, the possibilities of the form are far from exhausted. This is essential listening for any lover of Americana music and, moreover, anyone excited by the potential it still holds to touch the human heart.

“Songfield” is an excellent opener. Cranford Hollow is a band who isn’t afraid to tweak your preconceptions about what traditional instruments can do in a modern context and, moreover, use atmospherics to memorable effect. The opener starts with a hint of the epic, even progressive, bleeding in along the edges, but soon settles into a comfortable stop-start groove. “Long Shadows” kicks off with a fiddle and vocal fanfare before settling into another compelling groove. Lead guitarist Yannie Reynecke makes a first class six string partner for John Cranford’s second guitar and their exchanges show a patience of development few guitar tandems exhibit in this genre. The rhythm section is another strong point of this performance, but it’s Eric Reid’s violin work that makes the strongest foil for Reynecke and Cranford’s guitar playing. “Bury It Down” is a much more straight-ahead Americana number than the album’s first two songs and the acoustic guitars ably support Reynecke’s twangy lead guitar touches. Cranford’s vocals are notable here, as elsewhere, thanks to the lyrical content but, predominantly, the blood and gravel delivery that retains immense musicality despite the rough hewn texture.

Cranford Hollow returns listeners to their modern approach with the song “And Your, Brutis”. This has a distinctive, signature touch and has a sturdy radio-ready sound that will win over casual fans and devotees alike. Despite its sleek construction, the song reeks of authenticity and it’s one of the strongest cuts on the album. Drummer Randy Rockolata’s patterns on “North” gives the song a lightly propulsive touch different from many of the album’s other tracks, but it bears the mark of the same current approach fused with the band’s traditional strengths. “Dark Turns”, the album’s sole instrumental, is a bit of a surprise for a couple of reasons. Newcomers may not expect a band with such obvious vocal and lyrical strengths to indulge in such fare and it comes late in the proceedings. It sets up the album’s final track, “Swing”, quite well. The last cut is a surprisingly exultant number, not free of Cranford’s typical lyric concerns, but nonetheless muscular and reaching skyward. Rockolata’s drumming is a key for this song’s success and the guitars play off quite well against his the pace he sets. Color/Sound/Renew/Revive solidifies Cranford Hollow’s standing as one of the best bands working in their field today and shows, five albums in, their creativity and chemistry is far from exhausted.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Humprhey/McKeown - Tapestry of Shadows (2017)

Written by Bradley Johnson, posted by Jason

OFFICIAL: www.hm-music.com

Lightning doesn’t always strike. The world is full of songwriters who, despite discernible talents, never find the right collaborators or creative circumstance to fully express their artistic desires. More often than not, generations of original musicians and otherwise come and go without any leaving a lasting mark beyond audience memories. When two songwriters find each other and strike up a productive creative partnership, the effect is noticeable. The sum becomes greater than the value of its parts and things reach a place unavailable to them individually. Heather Humphrey and Tom McKeown met in the early years of the century and quickly struck up a songwriting team who pitched material to a variety of performers in a wide array of styles. They soon chafed having to subvert their own musical ambitions to the demands of the marketplace in such a way and opted, instead, for recording their songs together as a duo. The latest release from the tandem, Tapestry of Shadows, is a full length studio effort ranking among their finest and proof of the abiding chemistry they established long ago.

They definitely write and record in an Americana vein, but there’s the compactness of pop songwriting imposed over their vision and it makes for an excellent match. It is a fortunate twist of fate that Humphrey and McKeown’s voice strike up such obvious chemistry – they confidently ride the numerous peaks and valleys of the song’s trajectory without ever betraying an obvious misstep. Some of the album’s other material is just as mine, but a little more retro minded. “Better Day” has some of the same pop leanings as we heard on the opener, but they are more muted here in favor of a bluesier approach. The duo’s words are on point throughout and “Better Day” is one of the more effective examples of how they refine longstanding themes with their own style. The light lilt of “Someday” sets up another lyrical instrumental turn but the vocal arrangement is equally melodic. Understatement, once again, is key.

The singers’ duet over some scattered flashes of violin and delicately wrought acoustic guitar work throughout the entirety of “Sasha on the Carousel”. The vocal melody is among the album’s finest and difficult to soon forget. “Passing Shadows” has a surprisingly hard charging snap thanks to its percussion and quickly builds a tremendous amount of barely restrained energy. The duo structures “You and I” around some more string instruments and, primarily, some beautifully evocative piano work. The gut wrenching exchange between Humphrey and McKeown on this track comes at an excellent place in the album’s running order and leaves a mark. There’s a number of songs included on Tapestry of Shadows that certainly lives up to the melancholy implied in its title, but the clouds musically break on the finale “Sunshine Today”. The effect is never crass however. There’s a genuine sense of hope emerging from this final song. It ends the album on a much appreciated note and rounds out listeners’ possible experiences in hearing this.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rejectionist Front - Evolve (2017)

OFFICIAL: http://rejectionistfront.com/ FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/RejectionistFront/ Written by Laura Dodero, posted...