Reviews by Paul McGee

David Berkeley Cardboard Boat Self-Release

These ten songs are companion pieces to stories contained in David Berkeley’s book The Free Brontosaurus. He uses the song characters to mirror the perspective of each story’s main character. This is an interesting idea and one that gives the listener the chance to absorb the songs/stories from different angles. Writing in character can give a song a somewhat distant feeling, but the reflections and insights in each song here can be taken as very personal. 

This is the sixth studio release from a literate, talented and accomplished song-writer who creates a gentle mood with his rich voice and a superb backing band that includes guitarist Bill Titus (Dan Bern, Brother Ali), trumpet and banjo player Jordan Katz (De La Soul, The Indigo Girls), bassist/keyboard player Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins) and drummer Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor). The harmony vocals of Sara Watkins are especially memorable and her vocals dovetail beautifully with Berkeley amongst the easy flow of these songs.

There are references to the sea with Setting SailTo the Sea and Cardboard Boat. Many of the songs contain a melancholy air touching on topics like relationship vulnerability, loss and regret; absence and a need to return; disillusionment and sadness and lost souls. However, there is also a perspective that new beginnings are possible and a brighter day awaits with new love and opportunity. This is folk music that is thought-provoking and delivered with great assurance.

Corinne West Starlight Highway MAKE

West has four previous releases and here the talented songstress has gathered a troupe of musicians who serve Starlight Highway’s ten songs with great reverence and some sublime playing. The arrangements are acoustic based with plenty of room for the various instruments to be heard and the production, by West herself, has to be applauded as she delivers a real gem. 

Her voice is very sweet and can soar with the rise of the instruments on songs like Give Our Ships Away and the jazzy tinge of Gypsy Harbor. There is the bluesy mood of Find Me Here and the old time swing of Cry of the Echo Drifter together with the rockabilly up-tempo pace of the title track. These are sophisticated songs delivered with fine feeling and restrained playing by an ensemble that includes the talents of Mike Marshall, excellent on mandolin and Henry Salvia on B3 Hammond organ, piano, accordion and Wurlitzer. Most of the songs are co-writes with the very talented Kelly Joe Phelps who adds some fine guitar and vocals on a number of tracks while Edo Castro on 7-string Fretless Bass and Ricky Fataar on drums give a solid rhythm to the melodies. A number of additional musicians add to the rich colour and the best way to enjoy these songs is to turn the volume up on the headphones and sip a slow glass of red wine to the sweet strains of, Audrey Turn the MoonTrouble No MoreMonday’s Song and Night Falls Away Singing – so much to enjoy.

Daniel Martin Moore Golden Age Sofaburn

This is Daniel Martin Moore’s fifth release. He possesses a beautiful voice which is startling like Art Garnfunkel’s and sings with a melancholic tone to melt even the hardest of hearts. Produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, the 10 songs here drip with atmospheric melody on the air of a soft breeze.

Joined by the subtle playing talents of Dan Dorff, Jr., Joan Shelley, Jim James, Kevin Ratterman, Dave Givan, Ben Sollee, and others from around  Kentucky, Moore takes his gentle reflections and turns them into finely polished gems of light jazz, piano-based, late night soulful spiritual searching.