Reviews by Paul McGee

Jack Tempchin One More Song Bluélan

Jack Tempchin is an American musician and singer-songwriter, best known for writing songs with the Eagles. The classic, Peaceful Easy Feeling, being the most recognised. He also had a hand in writing Already Gone, along with others, including a number of songs with Glen Frey for his solo work. As you would expect with such a pedigree, Tempchin has a way with a melody and there are plenty of examples of his stellar song-writing skills on this, his ninth solo release.

He sings in an easy, laid-back vocal style that is unhurried and smooth, perfectly fitting into the acoustic based songs that are included here. He speaks of returning to his roots with simple musical arrangements and that is what he delivers with a late-night, by the fire, conspiratorial feel to the entire project.

Slow Dancing, Old River and Around Midnight set the gentle pace and sound before the sweet strum of Circle Ties That Bind brings the listener forward into the next phase of the recording.

So Long My Friend is a snapshot of the life that Tempchin has most likely lived with plenty of colour in the images and a philosophy of keeping on moving, living life one day at a time. Still Looking For a Way to Say Goodbye is a lament to lost love and the haunted memories of regret “Was there something you said that I did not hear; How do we lose the ones we hold so dear”. It is the stand-out track in this collection.

The very clever, I Got Her Where She Wants Me To Be, is a fine tune and highlights the song-craft on display. Song For You is one of empathy for life’s knocks and struggles while Tumbleweed is a slow reflection on trying to love a free spirit who cannot be tied down. The closing track, One More Song, would sit quite easily into any Eagles record with a perfect chorus that sums up the raison-d’etre of this skilled artist; “One More Song For the Times to Come”.

Esquela Canis Majoris Self Release

The Spanish word Esquela apparently means ‘notice’ or ‘announcement’ and that is precisely what happens here. This is the third release from a very versatile group of musicians, Esquela, comprised of a five-piece indie-roots-Americana band featuring vocalist Rebecca Frame, lead guitarist Brian Shafer, Chico Finn on bass/vocals, Todd Russell on drums and Matt Woodin on guitar.

Guest Musicians on the project include producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel on guitar/vocals, Brian Mangini on keyboards, Matthew Polashek on saxophone, Mark Spencer on Pedal Steel and Tom White on Banjo/Tin Whistle/Fiddle.

The song arrangements are very bright and the harmonies are full of fun and spark. Their sound is up-tempo and driven by the strong vocals of Rebecca Frame which carry the fine playing through the 10 songs included here. A pleasing contrast is the world-weary delivery of Chico Finn on songs like Sorry, a salutary plea for forgiveness from a lover to his partner.

Pine Tar tells of a famous baseball game in 1983, played between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals that was abandoned on a technicality just as the Royals were winning. Heated protests followed and the debate raged until the game was replayed 24 days later.

This band has a quirky, independent streak to their music and topics such as corporate greed (Too Big to Fail) and racial inequality against the Irish (Need Not Apply) are balanced against parasitic females who crave wealthy husbands to keep them in a pampered life of luxury (Gold Digger). Best of all is a song called Animals that celebrates the joys of our four-legged friends and is a real joy.

This is a recommended release that will impress and bring a smile…

Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy The Miller Girl Merf 

Steve Hussey is a singer/songwriter and producer from Washington, West Virginia and has been playing professionally for almost 20 years in various bands.

This project is based around 10 love songs that are all written by Hussey and deal with the various aspects and challenges that are the stuff relationships are made of.

From the Bluegrass vibe of tracks like Looking For Love and Little Shove to the more modern Americana sound of Master Your Mind and Chalk It Up, there is plenty to keep the attention and attract the listener. Joined by Bluegrass prodigy Jake Eddy on banjo, this is a very enjoyable journey through song arrangements that span all aspects of traditional Roots/Folk influences.

The other musicians include Jeff Martin on drums, Ben Probus on fiddle, Anders Bush on bass and Ron Wallace on backing vocals and the songs are brought to life around the acoustic guitar of Hussey and the banjo of Eddy.

The title song, Miller Girl, is a view of local, rural life and fancying the neighbouring farmer’s daughter while Long List of Goodbyes is a clever take on moving on from heartbreak to the next opportunity. Better Day is a nice song that stays in the memory and the stripped back nature of the arrangements is simple and laced with easy tempos such as, I Pick You, a sweet tribute to love and all the positives of finding the ‘right one’… A very enjoyable release.

Sharon Goldman Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice) Self Release

This New York based singer-songwriter has been producing music of real quality since early 2000 and has received much praise for her literary gifts as both writer and performer.

Kol Isha is based in traditional Jewish communities, where women are not supposed to sing publicly in front of men. Across 13 songs (Eliza Gilkyson's Rose of Sharon is the one cover), Goldman takes us on a spiritual journey that visits her Jewish upbringing and influences, including the dogma of orthodox religion, balanced against a modern all-embracing spirituality, that is more inclusive and empowering.

Memory mixes with myth and there is a strong imagery running through songs like Jerusalem, Lilith, Pillar of Salt and The Sabbath Queen. A modern feminist perspective reflects on the traditional roles expected of women and the biblical and ancient Hebrew references are coupled with insight that draws inspiration from an ongoing search for her own truth.

The project is co-produced by Goldman and the excellent Stephen Murphy (various guitars) and engineered by Mark Dann who plays Bass on one track. With the subtle skills of Cheryl Prashker on percussion, Craig Akin on upright bass and Laura Wolfe on harmonium and violin, the arrangements are understated with plenty of room for the players to express their individual talents. Abbie Gardner guests on dobro and harmony vocals, with Brian Prunka on oud and Amy Soucy on background vocals.

Goldman has a number of previous releases and plays an active role in song-writing communities. Her Folk inflected music is both powerful and enduring.

Katie Garibaldi Rooted Clarity Living Dream 

This talented artist has been on our radar for some years now and her song-writing skills continue to hone themselves into a very pleasant listening experience. With four previous releases to her name, including the excellent Follow Your Heart (2014), this San Francisco artist produces a 5-song suite that shines brightly. All songs are written by Katie and production duties are shared with Kevin Blair, who also contributes on electric guitar and acoustic bass.

Delightful is a song that speaks of believing in yourself and not letting anybody put you down or knock your self-belief. I Am, has a sweet melody and the strings, mixed with fiddle & mandolin, are just perfect for a song that lends support to a friend/lover who is going through a difficult time. In My Wildest Dreams is a rites-of-passage song where illusion shatters and love does not always stay around - ‘In my wildest dreams; Love Stays’…

On My Own speaks of leaving that little hometown and going out into the big bad world. A coming of age anthem for the hopeful dreamers whose ‘memories sit and watch you leave.’ Bird in a Cage ends the record with a plea to fly free from those who impose limits on our lives. Self- doubt and self-imposed chains are there to be outgrown and the plea to ‘fly away’ leaves an image of someone who has already taken to the skies and knows that there really are no limits.

Katie is blessed with a clear and pure vocal delivery and her excellent band assist in making these 5 songs a really enjoyable listen. Tim Fellow (Drums, Percussion), Arturo Garza (Keyboards), JP Shafer (Fiddle, Mandolin), Nathan Lowry (Violin) and Emily Nelson (Cello) join Katie and Kevin Blair in making this sweetly soaring music that comes highly recommended.