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Music Review - `By the Risin' of the Sea` by James Kahn (dmac)

James Kahn - By the Risin' of the Sea  (click on image to watch video)

 11 April 2022

 

Black

James Kahn’s By The Risin’ Of The Sea is a delightfully unusual album. If you listen to this release with unengaged ears, perhaps while completing another busy work task at the same time, you may completely miss out on this music’s intentional uniqueness. Sometimes, Kahn sings these songs like an old pirate who is telling tales. Ah, but while these recordings may sound like a collection of old sea shanties, they’re actually contemporary subjects – only put to old, traditional musical styles. 

Kahn might be known better to some as an Emmy-nominated TV writer-producer, as well as author. Kahn’s restless spirit is also expressed with music, though, and the new album comes with an succinct explanation of its contents and intents. “Traditionally sailors sing shanties about their struggles with the elements, their hardships and toil. These contemporary shanties address our modern crisis – climate change, covid-19, oil slicks, species dieoffs, and existential angst – with probably, black humor, and yes, even hope.” And that’s an accurate assessment! 

 

The album’s title track both sounds and reads like a sailor’s lament. However, it kicks off the project with lyrical commentary on climate change. It’s been said that sea level rise is happening because of added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms. Kahn also addresses Covid-19 directly with the unsubtle “In the Covid Times.” It’s sung like a merchant marine choir, acapella, with handclaps applied for percussion. It’s also sung like a guy looking back on events that happened many years ago, when in truth, this one’s actually about much more recent times. 

It's sometimes difficult to determine Kahn’s motives for this music. Is he singing to inform non-believers about the Earth’s impending environmental disaster, or is he preaching to the choir? Or is he just expressing his deep misgivings about modern human behavior? No matter what may compel Kahn, he performs these songs with a near-religious fervor. In fact, you could replace some of its references to the Earth with the word ‘god,’ and it might well sound like a buccaneer’s gospel album, instead. 

Although Kahn applies an acapella approach more than once, however, when he accompanies himself instrumentally, it’s with traditional folk instrumentation. For instance, one titled “No More A’whalin’,” is driven by mournful banjo. Throughout the album, one hears fiddle and other acoustic instrumentation, as we;;. 

James Kahn is a little like a contemporary John the Baptist, behaving like a voice crying in the wilderness. Or some Old Testament prophet or other. Those that agree with Kahn’s clear political agenda will be heartened by these songs. He takes on some of the biggest environmental issues and puts his thoughts into enjoyably old-time music. Even if you’re not especially political, though, these sounds are built upon a solid folk music framework. 

Kahn deserves kudos for taking a creative approach to getting his message out. Granted, it contains a lot of information and some of the artist’s “angst” can be a little overwhelming at times, nevertheless, he carries it all off with plenty of passion and enthusiasm. This is serious business, and by no means any kind of Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Instead, it’s a dark and informative journey.

 

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

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Music Review - `Midnight Rain & Roses` by Luanne Hunt (dmac)

Luanne Hunt- Midnight Rain & Roses (click on image to watch video)

 5 March 2022

 

Black

Luanne Hunt’s single, “Midnight Rain & Roses,” is a story song. A sad story song, though, as it’s a tale all about love and loss. The roses in the song’s title, represent – as they usually do to – love and romance. The lyrical suggestion is that one man’s last gesture to his lover was to send her a bouquet of roses. His hope was to be with there when these love symbols arrived in order to celebrate their partnership. However, he doesn’t live long enough to see how she responds to this gift, and in the tragic love song tradition, he dies and doesn’t ever return. 

This tragic subject matter is drawn from Hunt’s 21st studio album, Portraits in Song. Her career has already spanned 27 years, and her style falls within the country/Americana realm. Stylistically, this keyboard-backed track may remind you of Seventies rock icons, such as Fleetwood Mac. 

Hunt sings these words like an outside narrator. She’s watching from afar, as this romance takes its tragic turn. Although this track is not especially country – instrumentally – Hunt’s voice sounds a little bit like that of Skeeter Davis, who had a similarly sad love song hit titled “The End Of The World.” Hunt sings it relatively dispassionately. She doesn’t perform it with a cry in her voice, for instance, but just tells the story straightforwardly. Perhaps ironically, this track’s arrangement is relatively bright – considering its dark subject matter. 

These roses are transformed from something that reminds this woman of love, to symbols of her loss. Flowers intended to be objects of joy become reminders of a hurtful loss. Although the word ‘rain’ only appears in the song’s chorus, this watery act of nature has always represented tears in most songs. It’s significant that this rain is falling at night too because it suggests the widow in the song is up in the middle of the night crying and unable to sleep. 

The track has a gentle, thumping groove, which especially brings Fleetwood Mac’s heyday to mind. While keyboards lead the instrumentation, the recording also includes some tasty electric guitar licks interspersed within. At one point, Hunt sings, “Love can be the sweetest thing/Or it can be a bitter pill.” This widow has experienced some of love’s sweetness in the past but is now seemingly destined to a long period of tasting its bitter pill. 

 

Few genres address tragedy better than country music. Luanne Hunt knows this and draws upon the genre’s longstanding tradition of putting pain and loss into music. The death of a relationship is bad enough. Some have said that losing a lover feels worse than death itself. However, when you combine physical death with the demise of a relationship (due to death), well, it can hardly get much worse than that. This is a song that may make you think differently about roses. We send roses to show we love someone, but we also lay them at the graves of loved ones that have passed on. And in the case of “Midnight Rain & Roses,” these blooms serve both purposes, simultaneously.

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Kieran Ridge and the Moonrakers` by Keiran Ridge (dmac)

Kieran Ridge- Kieran Ridge and the Moonrakers  (click on image to watch video)

 16 October 2021

 

Black

This self-titled album from Kieran Ridge & The Moonrakers is the first one for Ridge in this new band configuration. His previous three albums were tracked by The Kieran Ridge Band. Ridge sings these songs while playing guitar, and is backed by Hannah Rose on fiddle, Liam Dailey on mandolin and banjo, Pat Hannafin on drums and percussion, and Michael Doughty on bass. The album is a mix of various styles of music, ranging from Celtic sounds to country vibes. Many or these original songs sound like they’re just-discovered folk songs, as Ridge creates ‘modern’ old songs.

As a vocalist, Ridge’s voice is weathered – at best. He’s by no means any smooth operator. Even though he sometimes sounds like he’s a visitor from the past at times, he does sing about getting on a train in Boston (his real current hometown) for a journey to New Orleans during “To Get Back Home.” The Moonrakers give us some sweet country sounds with “Straight To The Heart Of Love.” Featuring wonderful fiddle work, this one has a Dylan-y quality to it. Its title even reads like something Dylan might write. “Blind In Time” also nicely utilizes acoustic guitar picking as well as mandolin and more fiddling. On it, Ridge comes off about as woebegone as Tom Waits. 

“Wasted” is as close as Kieran Ridge & The Moonrakers get to honest-to-goodness rock and roll. It’s built upon a propulsive acoustic guitar part and upfront drums. Furthermore, Ridge sings it with a little gravel in his voice. This one also includes fiddling, but it sounds like a rock band with a fiddler in it, rather than an instrumentalist a little out of place. 

The album closes with a slow and quiet one called “Close Your Eyes.” If sports Ridge’s gentlest vocal. Once again, fiddling drives its melody. It’s a song to sing at the end of a long day. Even the end of your worst day requires you to get some rest. It’s a little bit like a lullaby, even though it’s an adult’s song. “The battle is over until morning,” Ridge reminds us. Far too often, many of us continue to wage battles in our minds overnight, when we can’t physically do anything to improve our lot. However, we all need a break. We can’t live to fight another day until we get ourselves a good night’s rest. This is a smart way to finish an album, as well. Many albums are lyrical wars against various demons, with each song representing a different battle. Once an album’s done, though, it’s time to put down our musical weapons and just give it a break. What more can you do? Just close your eyes and get some shuteye. There will be other battles, other days.

You may not think of Boston as an Americana music hotbed, but Kieran Ridge & the Moonrakers are by no means lone rangers. Acts like Lake Street Dive come immediately to mind, for example. Then there’s the whole Irish American scene there, which is a world all by itself. With his world weary and world worn singing voice, Kieran Ridge is an authentic practitioner of powerful roots music, and this self-titled album is a fine representation of his soulful music.

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Threadbare` by Honey Don't (dmac)

Honey Don't- Threadbare (click on image to watch video)

 15 February 2022

 

Black

Honey Don’t most likely take their name from the Carl Perkins’ song, “Honey Don’t.” That song dates back to 1956, and it was actually the B-side to “Blue Suede Shoes.” Both are considered two of the greatest ever rockabilly songs. However, the act’s third album, Threadbare, is not rockabilly at all. Comprised of the married couple Bill Powers and Shelley Gray, this duo has filled its most recent album with wonderful roots music, which touches upon bluegrass, country, and various Americana elements throughout. 

Powers is the pair’s primary songwriter, while Gray also sings while playing bass. The album’s best country-ist song is “High Country News Girl.” It’s upbeat, with plenty of fiddle and dobro fills. It also features some mighty fine singing. (It’ll get you up on your feet dancing, if you’re not careful). One of the record’s prettiest cuts is “Daybreak on the Muddy.” Closing out the album, this instrumental recording showcases plenty of skilled playing. Sonically, it’s a bit of a gentle bluegrass tune. Powers’ vocal is particularly memorable on “Denver Ramble,” which is a bit of a talking blues – only it is bluegrass-spiked talking blues. Gray harmonizes nicely with Powers in some places on this track, too. 

Bill Powers wrote (or cowrote) most of these songs, yet some of them sound so old timey, you might be surprised when you see his writing credit attached to them. For instance, “Big Water Ahead” is an upbeat cowboy song about the Colorado River (which is big water, indeed). It feels like something cowboys have been singing while riding along the trail for years and years. It feels passed down from generation to generation. However, Powers has put himself into history’s cowboy boots in order to sing this authentic song of warning. 

The album’s title track is an honest assessment of one man’s financial dire straits, on one level. He’s not wearing a crisp new tuxedo, so to speak. However, when he sings about being threadbare, he also notes how his love for a girl shows right through. It’s also, on a more positive note, a song about how he simply can’t hide his deep affection for his woman. The song has an upbeat, bluegrass rhythm, and finds both Powers and Gray harmonizing together again beautifully. Furthermore, it’s sweet to contemplate how these two lovebirds are singing these words to each other. 

In the longstanding country music tradition of performing drinking songs, “Wine, Whiskey, Beer or Gin” is a love song of a completely different variety. It’s a lyric of endearment directed at popular varieties of alcoholic beverages. It’s not a song that considers the consequences of drinking, mind you. Instead, it praises the many different ways these adult beverages may be consumed for pleasure. 

Threadbare may be the term for clothes that might be destined for the wash rag bin, which is nearly at the point of being unwanted. The same can’t be said of Honey Don’t, though. The musical threads they present are strong and lovely. Their songs don’t sound anything like what’s on the radio – not even what’s found coming out of country radio. Instead, Threadbare is equivalent to a classy, vintage wardrobe. It’s a sound akin to a classic look. Filled with strong singing, playing and songwriting, this music is not something you can ever wear out – even if you tried.

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `True is Beautiful` by Raveis Kole (dmac)

Raveis Kole - True is Beautiful  (click on image to watch video)

 4  August 2021

 

Black

The title of Raveis Kole’s single, “True is Beautiful,” is more than a tad philosophical. Usually, whenever we consider what is beautiful, we imagine something we can see with our eyes. Nevertheless, Raveis Kole’s lyrical statement is just as true as a pretty viewpoint. Knowing the truth, as we’re told, has been said to set us free. “True is Beautiful” is a little out of the ordinary, it’s true, but it’s nevertheless a welcome reminder. 

Raveis Kole (Laurie Raveis and Dennis Kole) are a singer-songwriter duo, and “True is Beautiful” leans closely to the folk side of the musical spectrum. Lyrically, Raveis Kole begins its meditation on the real, rather unusually. Rather than point out truth examples, the pair instead remind us about how “There’s a snake that escaped from the garden.” This Biblical snake represented Satan, who has been called the father of lies. This example is meant to remind the listener that lying has been going on for a long time – since the beginning of time if you believe the Biblical account. Whereas truth is beautiful, lies are ugly. Maybe you think snakes are cool looking, but many of us consider these cold-blooded creatures as one of God’s ugliest creations. 

The minor key melody driving the song’s verses, is followed by a major key, positive chorus. Raveis, who sings lead on the track, announces how she’s going to get her hands dirty and plant something beautiful. Those dishonest roots need to be pulled out and replaced by better, more honest ones. This chorus ends with the repeated line, “True is beautiful.” Much can be said about Raveis Kole’s lyrical statement here. Yes, in a general sense, truth is far better than lies. However, an environmental message can also be drawn from these words. Nature is beautiful, when it’s not messed with or manipulated, the way the snake initially used it to his advantage. Nature is – for the most part – good and honest, and it’s the true beauty in the world. On the one hand, there is a lyrical move to get back to nature. Furthermore, there is also a desire to get nature back to its beautiful, natural state. 

Sonically, this track is by no means simplistic, acoustic guitar folk. Its bass part is elastic and dynamic, while the electric guitars sound a little progressive in places. Also, later in the track, Raveis references a different literary instance, singing about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. After all, we all learn about the dangers of telling lies as children. Even so, many children grow up to be liars, never fully recognizing truth’s beauty. 

There is much talk about our culture’s current loss of truth. Go no further than the prevalence of fake news, to get a taste of all that. Although the Bible commands us to not lie, you don’t need to be a Biblical scholar to realize how damaging lying can be. Truth, however, where we get all the facts out on the table, may not always feel good, but this act is entirely necessary if we want a fair and just society. That conniving snake is still among us, in the form of corrupt politicians, bad businesspeople and fibbers from all walks of life. Honesty, after all, is always the best policy.

-Dan MacIntosh

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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