Reviews by Paul McGee

Krista Detor 'Barely' -Tightrope

Krista Detor is one of the great unheralded American songwriters of the last decade. If we look for a sense of grace in the world and a considered, reflective view of the human condition then there is much to recommend a secretive liaison with her wonderful, literary recordings.

Produced by David Weber and wrapped in understated song arrangements and melodies, Barely is a very brave record in its stripped bare beauty and gentle warmth. Hers is a voice that breathes a seductive, melancholic tone; worldly wise and always open to the possibility of enduring hope. Her ability to capture the appropriate mood is impressive and the insight and vulnerable nature of these songs quite haunting.

Can I Come Over tells of a repentant lover who wants to make up with her partner having broken a bond of trust. Box of Clouds speaks of a former lover who is left behind in the rush of living. Castle in Wales is a lovely memo to a partner to go back and relive a special memory. Barely is a knowing look at a broken relationship but yet a belief that love may endure. From the Pedestal is a song about regret and hurt caused to another while trying to look forward to the future and forget past memories.

For All I Know is a beautiful keepsake in time from a parent to a child and the hope of infinite possibility held in the future of a young life. Too Fast is a superb reflection of lives in motion and the decisions that shape us. The Coming Winter, a duet with Mary Dillon, boasts a beautiful duet that takes sides between two lovers in a fight to have their man return from the war to one or the other. 

Recorded with mainly piano and guitars with guest vocals from Amanda Biggs, Moira Smiley and Mary Dillon and cello from Anne Hurley; this is a quiet, reflective, poignant, personal and honest release. This one is a real keeper and highly recommended.

Joel Plaskett 'The Park Avenue Sobriety Test' - Self Release

Born in Nova Scotia, Joel Plaskett has been making quite a successful career in his native Canada and further afield for the last 15 years now, producing a succession of always interesting releases to mark his musical journey and maturity as a songwriter of note.

His sound is very much in the contemporary singer songwriter arena if we must pick a signpost, but his reach is more than just this with an eclectic array of genres, from blues and folk to rock and country.

This new release is his sixth solo outing, when not playing as part of the more rock orientated Joel Plaskett Emergency. The songs here cover a range of subjects from a nostalgic look at growing up (On a Dime) to a random thoughts scattergun (Song for Jersey) and on to more serious topics such as corporate control (Captains of Industry) and a plea to his nation (For Your Consideration).

The production is shared by Joel and Ian McGettigan and the musicians are drawn from a wide range of players that have worked with Plaskett over the years. Broke sings of not giving up and having fortitude and resolve to endure no matter what the obstacle – ‘I’m broke, but I’m not broken’.

Alright/OK and Credits Roll are relationship songs that discuss the relative health of staying together too long or exiting too early – ‘Don’t you hang around til the credits roll’.

When I Close My Eyes is a fine song of passion and yearning for that special someone and the title track (P.A.S.T.) is a fun romp through our daily lives and the randomness of it all.

The one cover version, Hard Times, (Stephen Foster) is a barometer in many ways for the rest of the project as it pauses among the pleasure of these songs to reflect upon the tears and sorrow of the disenfranchised. It is a terrific version of a timeless classic and shows the mark of the man. This is a really enjoyable listen and recommended to fans, new and old alike.

Kip Moore 'Wild Ones' - MCA

This second release by MCA artist Kip Moore has plenty of label weight behind it. Clocking in at almost 50 minutes however, it strikes me as nothing more than an overproduced, arena-oriented, hit factory approach to being a modern ‘real’ country boy. Is this the future direction of Nashville country music and should we be afraid?

Opening track Wild Ones has a production that includes programmed beats and a slow groove, topped off by chants and hand claps – it could be stadium rock – it could be chart pop – it could be a number of things, but it is not easily slotted into any definition of the traditional country genre. Sure, the vocal is authentic southern boy, influenced by many other artists and the gloss of Come and Get It has airwave hit written all over it; but that is not the point; am I listening to Bon Jovi lite or a Garth Brooks wannabe?

Commercial sound (Magic), upbeat tempos (Girl of the Summer), heart on sleeve lyrics (That was Us), pseudo-anthem chant (Lipstick), Radio Friendly (What Ya Got on Tonight), slow and sensitive (Running for You), on it goes...

The one song that feels truly authentic is final track Comeback Kid which shows what this song writer could achieve if he were to get back to the source of it all, honest songs delivered in a style that strips away all the fluff, programming and junk. 

Melanie Dekker 'Live in Europe' - Self Release

This Canadian artist began recording solo in the late 1990’s and has built a solid career over the years. Live in Europe clocks in at around 50 minutes and the 13 tracks were recorded at 4 concerts in Germany and Holland. Dekker is joined by a group of 4 players on guitars, bass and keyboards as she delivers folk oriented songs that visit a wide range of topics from matters of the heart (Blush, Boomerang) the price of commitment (The Price You Pay, Meant to Be), loss of innocence (Distant Star, At the Junkyard), communication breakdown (Flowers, Stare at the Rain) and philosophical musings (Maybe We’re the Angels).

David Sinclair plays guitars with some aplomb and his reputation as a member of Sarah McLachlan’s band gives him due respect and gravitas. The overall playing is both sensitive and subtle in service of these quiet vignettes of life, but the lack of any audience presence takes away from the fact that it is essentially a live recording. Muted applause and a few clipped song intros, do not add to the feel of the project. However, Melanie sings with a beautifully clear voice and the songs are worth repeated plays.

Jack Tempchin 'Learning To Dance' - Blue Elan Records

A Californian singer-songwriter, Tempchin is best known for his contributions to the Eagles songbook and has also written for a number of other bands and artists including Tom Rush, George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Glen Campbell. Learning to Dance is produced, recorded and mixed by Joel Piper, who does a fine job, and adds the majority of instruments and background vocals.

There is an easy tempo to these 12 songs, as if you were to mix a James Taylor vibe with a sleepy Tim McGraw. Tempchin sings with an effortless, sweet delivery and the production keeps things at a medium pace throughout.

The End of the Affair has a smooth jazz groove and the title track is tailor-made for country artists to cover. The songs are mainly about love and relationship matters, with the slow strum of Ain’t Nobody like You the perfect example. You Can Go Home is a song that visits the past and what gets left behind; it is one of the stronger songs with the reflection that ‘you can go home, but you can’t go back’. 

Finally Found Me is a quiet acoustic strum that speaks of finding an inner peace and Room to Run closes the set with a message to let your children develop their character and identity with only a gentle guiding hand.

This is a fine collection of songs that will appeal to a broad cross section of music listeners.