GRACE-ATTALIE – Single Review: “Polluted: The Medley”

Though the music I’ve written about on this blog has more often than not involved various forms of rock, folk, electronic or pop, as EclecticMusicLover I do like to feature other genres as well, especially from countries outside the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Today I have the pleasure of featuring singer/songwriter Grace-Attalie, a young woman with one of the most amazing and distinctive vocal styles I’ve heard in a long while. Originally from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and now based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Grace uses her soulful voice like a musical instrument, producing exquisite vocal sounds and textures with such incredible depth and emotional range that they leave me speechless.

In December 2018, she released her marvelous debut EP Polluted, featuring three excellent songs drawing from soul, jazz, Latin and African music influences. Now, she’s released a new medley of the three tracks, entitled simply “Polluted: The Medley“, along with a video of her performing the song with musicians Ngwato Mapalakanye on guitar and Joe Simoz on drums. The video was beautifully filmed in subdued light with cool blue tones by photographer and cinematographer Ryan Jarrett.

Though each of the three songs – “Eggshell”, “Standards” and “Sombre Storm” – are distinctly different, they’re artfully melded together seamlessly in the medley to flow as one flawlessly smooth and gorgeous composition. Simoz taps out the sultry tempo that hovers somewhere between a Latin and African-flavored jazz beat. Backed by airy synths and a sensual bass line, Mapalakanye’s strummed electric guitar notes are sublime, and a perfect complement to Grace’s lush vocals that go from breathy purr to deep smoke. It’s an absolutely captivating track.

To more fully appreciate Grace-Attalie’s astonishing vocal talents, spend a few extra minutes and listen to the three wonderful original songs here:

Connect with Grace-Attalie on Twitter
Stream “Polluted” on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

FRED HILLS – Single Review: “Ketu”

Fred Hills is a creative and talented freelance drummer and composer from Brighton, UK, and he’s just released a captivating new instrumental single “Ketu.” A graduate of the British Institute of Modern Music in Brighton, Fred combines his love of jazz, rock, prog, electronica, folk and world music with inspiration from his favorite artists, as well as his travels, to create compositions filled with colorful rhythms and melodic ‘open-handed’ beats. Fred has collaborated and performed in the UK and Europe with a number of musicians and groups, including The Slytones, Hot Moth, Time for T, Ellie Ford, Michael Baker and Mara Simpson.

Fred told me that “Ketu” was inspired by his travels around India in late 2017. In their premier of the song’s video, the online music webzine Arctic Drones notes that the song was also inspired by “his experience with Hindu astrology, which sparked an interest in how lunar and solar energy systems may affect someone both mentally and physically. Fred stated that “Ketu” represents karmic collections – both good and bad – tangible and supernatural influences.” He adds that “Ketu” is an instrumental song built on an expansive emotional spectrum, mixing ambivalence and enchantment, hope and discovery.” The track was co-produced by Fred and Alex Barron, who also played bass and did the mixing and mastering.

The song opens with mysterious synths and a delicate guitar riff, then Fred’s intricate drums enter as the synths and guitar expand with the introduction of Alex’s bluesy bass notes. Fred’s arresting drum work, which the track is built around, has a quiet intensity that’s incredibly dynamic, yet never overpowering. The sparkling synths are gorgeous, and his jazzy guitar riffs are fantastic. In the video, Fred appears to be almost in a trance-like state as he plays the drums, which is the same feeling I get while listening to this gorgeous and mesmerizing song. Watch, listen, and see for yourself:

To learn more about Fred, check out his Website

Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Check out more of his music on Soundcloud
Purchase “Ketu” on Bandcamp

SUM Releases Video For Their Uplifting New Single “It’s Alright to Be Me”

SUM2

SUM is a New York City-based band with an admirable philosophy and loads of talent. They’ve created their identity from the meaning of the Latin word “Sum” (pronounced “soom”), which means “to be” or “I am.” Their aim is to inspire us to accept who we are and to understand and embrace our own uniqueness.  Their exuberant music style, born from a fusion of jazz, soul, hip hop and pop, is beautifully showcased on their uplifting new single “It’s Alright to Be Me.” It’s the first single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album SUM, due for release in late September.

The band is lead by drummer, composer and arranger Steve Belvilus, and the lovely soulful vocals are courtesy of the engaging Patryce Williams, who’s also a professional actress. Rounding out the ensemble are Joel Desroches (Piano), Olivier R. (Keys), Andrew Gould (Sax), Gil “XL” Defay (Trumpet) and Francesco Beccaro (Bass). In an interview with VENTS Magazine, Steve explained their reasoning behind writing “It’s Alright to Be Me”:  “When we played shows, people kept messing up the name of our band and we always had to explain the meaning. So I decided to write a song that hopefully will become a hit so that we don’t have to explain ourselves anymore.

Lyrically, the track explains what the band is all about, and was created to be their defining song, and also an anthem of empowerment:

At a young age struggling to become all I can be
I was afraid to show the treasures inside of me
Many people wanted to make fun of me
But now I see the light that’s been in me

The light is the essence inside of me
The “I” you see is bright and shines all over me
SUM is the Latin word that defines me
It means the “I” that’s bright in me

I don’t care if you don’t like what’s within
I’d rather be myself cause that’s all I can be
SUM means I or to be the essence of me
It’s alright to be me, that’s what SUM means to me

The heartwarming and charming video skillfully captures the message expressed in the lyrics. It opens in a classroom, where Patryce plays both a teacher and a student who’s tormented by a classmate. Later on, the band is shown performing the song at a small party, and the boy who teased the childhood Patryce is now an adult. He approaches her adult self with a gift and an apology, and all is forgiven as they hug one another. Take a look:

Connect with SUM:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream or purchase “It’s Alright to Be Me” on Bandcamp

THE PUSS PUSS BAND – Single & Video Review: “We Should Be”

Puss Puss Band We Should Be

I’m back in Wales (having just featured Welsh band Dying Habit), this time to talk about the lovely new single “We Should Be” and it’s delightful video from The Puss Puss Band.  Based in Cardiff, and consisting of multi-instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh, the band is named for Asa’s cat Puss Puss. Both are accomplished musicians who’ve worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals.

In April 2017, with help from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys released their beautiful debut album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea. I reviewed the album along with an interview with Lee, which you can read here. Over the past six months or so, they’ve been writing and recording songs for a second album, and “We Should Be” is the first single. It’s a wonderful song, delivering the pleasing jazz and folk-infused pop we’ve come to expect from these talented guys. And once again, Mr. Bundrick lends his expertise on the keyboards.

The bittersweet song is about missing someone and wishing they were back in love with you so you could be together. Layers of gently strummed guitar, crisp percussion and delicate synths create a sparkling backdrop for Lee’s smooth, breathy vocals that convey a sad resignation as he sings the poignant lyrics:

Lighted excited waiting in the rain
Two minutes ‘til I see you again
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The magic word that is her name

We stole our days away
Wishing by the sea
Wrapped up in you
Wrapped up in me

The way you see the world
Is just the same
It’s just the way you feel about me that’s changed

But we should be….
We should be in love
We should be in love…
See you’re all I’m wishing on

Dying, just trying to find
The words to say
The few minutes that I’ll see you today
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The tragic word that is my name

If the way you see the world
Is just the same?
Maybe there’s no need…
To hurt in vain?

Is it right?
To close up tight?
To feed this cold divide…
Between you and me?
Is it so hard to see?…
That we should be

We should be…
We should be in love…
We should be in love…
You’re all I’m wishing on
We should be….in love

The video is one of the most delightful I’ve seen in a long while. It shows a man in a cat suit (played by Lee) sitting or standing in various locations on a busy street in Cardiff, holding a large flip chart printed with words that are directed at his love interest. By and by, he walks past a busking musician (played by Asa) and throws a few pieces of dry cat food into his guitar case. I love the scenes where he’s chasing pigeons, riding the merry-go-round, and when he sits on the bench, offers some of his food to a man who politely turns him down, then proceeds to eat it out of the bowl. At the end, the busker sees him sitting forlornly on the ground next to the merry-go-round, offers his hand, and they walk off together down the street holding hands. What a sweet story, and I love both the song and video!

Connect with The Puss Puss Band:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music on Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

THE AUTUMN STONES – Album Review: “Emperor Twilight”

Autumn Stones

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Rather unique in their music style is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their gorgeous jangly guitars. creates a lush soundscape that serves as the basis for their wonderful songs.

Since forming in 2009, the band’s undergone a number of changes in personnel, and the current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards), Raymond Cara (drums & percussion) and Dan Dervaitis (guitar & organ). They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. Now they’re back with a stunning new album Emperor Twilight, which dropped on June 22. The album was recorded at Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles studio in Cambridge, Ontario, and co-produced by the band and Magoffin, who also engineered and mixed it. Harris Newman did the mastering, and I have to say everyone involved in the recording and production of Emperor Twilight did a fantastic job, as The Autumn Stones have never sounded better.

In describing the album’s sometimes doleful theme, Megahey explains: “I’m a little preoccupied with exploring human nature’s dark side. I guess I have always thought of that as the artist’s role in culture. I think, for all the gloom easily pointed out, there’s a lot to be hopeful over and cheered by in the world. Emperor Twilight is also about being grateful for that and resisting the temptation to be cynical.

Kicking off the album is “Nightmares,” a beautiful track that speaks to utopian visions and the tribal and hypocritical aspects of our nature that give rise to authoritarianism.  “Pale as a ghost. Hungry again. Nightmares are born again.” The splendid jangly guitars and Butler’s soulful sax, both defining elements of The Autumn Stones’ appealing sound, are on full display here, as well as on the bouncy “Living in a Dream.” I love Megahey’s smooth, emotive vocals that have a vulnerable, yet seductive quality.

I thought those first two tracks were beautiful – and they surely are! – but the romantic and incredibly melodic “Fontana” is honestly one of the loveliest songs I’ve heard this year. The jangly guitar work is stunning, the swirling keyboard and organ riffs are sublime, and Megahey’s vocals are positively captivating. It’s my favorite track on the album, though quite frankly, I love them all.

Lovebomb” has more of a rock feel, with reverb-drenched and fuzzy guitars overlying a solid buzzing bass line.  Megahey sings of our natural carnal instincts: “There’s a sin in our skin. Can you blame us? Lovebomb.” On “The Bigger They Fail,” their gorgeous jangly guitars seem to channel The Cure, and Butler’s smooth sax is sublime.  I’m running out of superlatives to describe their songs, but damn this is a beauty, and yet another favorite of mine. The upbeat “Lovelife” has a breezy Style Council vibe and, as always, the guitars, bass, sax and percussion are perfection. Megahey croons the positive lyrics about embracing the good things about your life, and letting go of the bad: “You’ve go to love life down to the bitter end. Cause you don’t get a second chance. It’s so late, but is it too late?

The album’s marvelous lead single “Mandatory Love” is an exuberant gem that seems to tell us that love should liberate, rather than imprison, the heart and mind. The instrumentals are dazzling, and the lyrics poetic:

It was an idea unrare
Breathes like solid air
A total flop, a keystone cop
Agents of despair

This little heart, you’re set upon
This little heart, it can’t beat wrong

Our gilded prologue
Drives a wedge
Fills our ancient cup
This little dove locked up
She cannot be tamed
By mandatory love

It was an idea unsound
Feels like shaky ground
A total bore, a ‘less not more’
The undead overground

Closing out Emperor Twilight is the sweeping anthem “Every Little Shadow.” Dervaitis’ lovely organ work takes a starring role on this moving track, and the guitars are superb. It’s the perfect ending to as close to perfect an album that I’ve heard this year. Every track on this beautiful album is outstanding, and I cannot heap enough praise upon it. The guys that make up The Autumn Stones are all gifted musicians, and I hope they continue to grace our ears with their music.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

GEORGIA FEARN – Album Review: “Perfect on Paper”

Georgia Fearn pic

Having no musical talents whatsoever, I’m always impressed by people who do, and especially when they’re also quite young. Needless to say, I was blown away when I listened to the debut album Perfect on Paper by Welsh artist Georgia Fearn. Only 17 years old, the singer/songwriter from Carmarthen has a remarkable artistry and maturity far beyond her years. She writes all her own songs and plays guitar and piano, with session musicians playing the other instruments.

Released in March through Grapefruit Records, Perfect on Paper sounds like the work of a seasoned artist, which is actually the case in a sense. Georgia began writing songs at the age of nine, and at 17 she’s an accomplished wordsmith, penning thoughtful and frank lyrics about the joy, pain and complications that arise when we enter into relationships. She’s already performed in many different venues, most notably the famous Cavern in Liverpool, and her songs have received airplay on BBC Wales, and other radio stations in the UK.

Georgia incorporates a myriad of music styles, including pop, rock, jazz, hip hop and even Celtic folk, to create songs that are surprising, unique and always compelling. The superb opening track “L’Amour” beautifully illustrates what I’m talking about. The song features all sorts of interesting sounds and instruments like accordion, banjo, horns and strings, and the result is delightfully saucy track with a sophisticated French vibe. As if all that weren’t enough, she injects a bit of a Celtic feel in the chorus interlude. Didn’t I say that she likes to surprise us?

The lyrics describe a relationship doomed from the start: “You told me you were leaving ’cause I smoked too many cigarettes. I broke the bad habit, and I drove straight to your address. I saw you pressing your lips to someone new. It’s time to break my other bad habit. You.” Bloody brilliant.

Perfect on Paper is an ambitious work with 12 tracks, all of them suberb. “Catch Me If You Can” is an infectiously catchy number that had me humming the melody long after hearing the song. “Misty Mae” was inspired by a character in the TV series American Horror Story. A beautiful mandolin riff and flute lend a bit of a gypsy flair to the rousing track, while distorted electric guitar adds an edgy feel. “Does It Make You Wonder” is a sweeping ballad featuring a haunting piano riff, mournful violins and a military drumbeat. Georgia’s heartfelt vocals are extraordinary as she croons: “I’m living in a glass house, where the person I used to be, she’s buried six feet under. She’s trying to scream. She’s blocked out by the thunder. Does it ever make you wonder, what could have been?

“Sharp Objects” is a dark rock song about the proverbial town without pity. The track opens with what sounds like helicopter blades and men shouting in the distance. Georgia snarls the biting lyrics about hypocrisy and evil that lie beneath a rosy exterior: “Home is where the lies are. Pretty quiet village, that’s where all the scars are. Tiny little village, that’s where all the hate is. / Ooh I’m gonna drown. Something about this nuclear town. Toxic.

And speaking of dark, one of my favorites is the dramatic, searing title track “Perfect on Paper,” about a woman serving prison time for killing the man that done her wrong: “I know he never loved me. He just loved the thought. He thought there was a girl out there who’d do what he wants. She’d smile in a loving manner to her man perfect on paper. Not knowing soon she’d see every awful heartbreaking, sickening, ugly thing he could be.” Wow, those are some of the best lyrics I’ve seen in a while!

Another great track is the bluesy “Master of Jazz.” The sensuous song speaks of the cool allure of a jazz musician who can sweep a girl off her feet: “Heart on his sleeve and mic in his hand. I heard he was a part of some out of town band. He liked to think he was the king of swing. And the king of swing would have you hanging by a string He’s a master of jazz, when he sings you come alive.” The melancholy “Emptiness” is a piano-driven track with mournful violin. The lyrics address the feelings of pain and loss when love has gone: “We judge people for judging, ’cause judging is wrong. The only way to stay OK is writing a song. Food has lost it’s taste. Get me out of this place. If you cut me open, I would bleed his name. It hurts so much.

Georgia injects a hip hop beat and lots of distorted guitar into “No Need to Hide,” while “Always Be Yours” is a lovely, uplifting ballad about how she was saved by another’s love and devotion. The Latin-infused album closer “You Wouldn’t Do This if You Did” is a kiss-off to a lover with a chronic drinking problem: “How am I supposed to love you, when you only see me through bottled eyes. And every time I smell the liquor, a little part inside of me dies. You’re not who you were when I first met you. / I know you don’t love me. Cause you wouldn’t do this if you did.”

Perfect on Paper is a brilliant album, and an outstanding debut from this gifted and promising young artist. I expect – and hope – we’ll be hearing more great music from Georgia Fearn before long.

Connect with Georgia:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream her music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesAmazon / Klicktrack

GHOSTLY BEARD – Album Review: “Inward”

I’ve noted in previous posts that one of the things I like about Twitter is the huge amount of new music I’m exposed to from the many musicians and bands who follow me. And in addition to all the terrific music, I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know some truly kind and generous people who I can call friends. They’ve not only supported me and my blog, they’ve also shown themselves to be strong supporters of other artists. One of those musicians is singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who goes by the artistic name Ghostly Beard.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard is originally from France but now calls Montréal, Québec, Canada home. Preferring the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, he’s chosen to remain physically anonymous, so he never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a creative and talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he expresses so beautifully through his intelligent lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report.

Ghostly Beard has been a busy man, recording and releasing lots of music over the past year or so, including his superb album Invisible, which dropped last October (of 2017). More recently, he’s released two new songs that will be featured on his forthcoming album Inward, which is scheduled to drop on May 4th, and the subject of this review. The album contains ten tracks that have more of a soft-rock vibe than the jazzier Invisible, though jazz elements are still well-represented on Inward.

Like all his music, the album is entirely self-produced.  He wrote all the music and lyrics, played all instruments, and recorded, mixed and mastered the songs at his own Studio GB in Montréal. He sang all vocals, other than for guest vocals provided by Emma Caiman on “Night Train” and his daughter Sarah Talbot on “Going Away.” The imaginative album cover photography is courtesy of Pol Ùbeda. Also, it must be noted that all proceeds from album sales will be given to MusiCounts – https://www.musicounts.ca/ – a Canadian charity organization that promotes music education through a wide variety of programs, including scholarships and providing musical instruments and equipment to after-school music programs and other community non-profit organizations.

Inward Album

The album opens with “How Does It Feel?” a laid-back tune with rather pensive lyrics about feeling that your life hasn’t mattered…that your existence has made no impact on the world: “When you’re so invisible what do you do in the title role? And when you know it’s far too late to take your place again in the human race. How does it feel? To be less than real.” The gently strummed and chiming guitars, accentuated by just a hint of reverb, are really pleasing, and the electric guitar riff that begins in the bridge and continues through to the end adds a nice complexity to the track. The languid drumbeat is accompanied by lightly crashing cymbals and a sweet xylophone that’s heard throughout the track. Ghostly Beard’s smooth vocals are warm and comforting, and seem to lessen the sting of the unhappy lyrics.

The warmth of his vocals, a major characteristic of his overall sound, are strongly evident on the bittersweet “The Love in Your Eyes,” an easy-going song dedicated to his mother, Christiane. His words beautifully express his feelings of loss and missing her in a way that everyone who’s lost a loved one can identify with: “Out of the blue I felt your absence. And into my heart an empty place. I reached for your light, I couldn’t find it. What would I give to see you now! And I had to say goodbye when I knew it would be for the last time. However hard I tried I couldn’t see all the love in your eyes anymore.”


In addition to his smooth, comforting vocals, another signature element of Ghostly Beard’s music is his layered, multi-textured guitar work that imparts a rich, fuller sound. His skillful use of strummed acoustic guitar alongside chiming and distorted electric guitars, all grounded by subtle bass lines, are exquisitely showcased on tracks like the Country-tinged “Gone,” the soft-rock ballad “Let Go” and the jazzy “It Doesn’t Matter.”  And his ace guitar playing really shines on the sparkling instrumental track “Autumn Blues,” where his fantastic bluesy guitar work seems to channel Steely Dan.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Night Train.” The captivating song tells the story of two unhappy people on a train fantasizing about a chance encounter: “We were strangers on the night train riding in the dark. Going nowhere to speak of, just escaping from the past. / And the tears started falling down. Was it yours or was it mine? / As the train was heading north, I thought of all I’ve left behind. Who knows what crossed your mind when your eyes crossed mine?” The dream is disrupted by a explosive riff of distorted guitars, then the music calms back down to its previous languid pace as reality returns: “Never spoke and never will. It all happened in a dream. During that fleeting moment in the world that passed away. / We leave so little trace but a memory in the dark. Ooh, taking the life train. Ooh, riding the long way home.” I love the instrumentals on this track, and Ghostly Beard’s vocal harmonies with Emma Caiman are marvelous.

Another standout is the darkly beautiful “9 to 5 (Barely Alive).” Nearly eight minutes in length, the influence of Pink Floyd is clearly evident, with extended guitar riffs floating above a somber but lovely piano movement. The track opens and closes with the sounds of voices as if at a gathering, adding to the sense of isolation. Ghostly Beard sounds resigned as he wistfully sings of the soul-crushing tedium of a 9 to 5 job: “9 to 5, you leave your soul behind and drag your worried mind to earn your place back in the line. / You’re barely alive. Just another day to make it through. All you do is give your light away.

Let It Rain” is a pretty but very sad song about being heartbroken over a loved one’s betrayal:  “I’ll never trust another one. I need some time to be sane again. My whole being out of hand. Entire world just turned to sand.” Not wanting to end things on a down note, Ghostly Beard delivers upbeat feels on the bouncy album closer “Going Away.” With assistance from his daughter Sarah on backing vocals, he sings about the thrill of getting away from life’s daily routines and problems, and going off on an adventure filled with possibilities. It’s a fitting closing track to an aptly-titled album filled with beautiful, introspective songs.

Track listing:

1. How Does It Feel?
2. The Love in Your Eyes
3. Gone
4. Autumn Blues
5. Night Train
6. Let Go
7. It Doesn’t Matter
8. 9 to 5 (Barely Alive)
9. Let It Rain
10. Going Away

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his existing music or pre-order Inward on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

CARBONWORKS – Video Premier: “End of the World Suite Part 3: The End”

CarbonWorks is not your typical band. It’s more a collective of talented session musicians, headed by its creator and guitarist Neal Barnard – who also happens to be a world-renowned medical doctor. Based in Washington, D.C., the band’s music is a unique fusion of rock, contemporary classical, jazz, blues and avant-garde, giving their sound an uncommon breadth and depth. With delicate melodies over driving rhythms, blues overlying classical strings, and frequent use of non-English lyrics, their songs defy categorization. As Neal Barnard explains, their unconventional time meters “tilt the song ever so slightly and give you that little jolt between the ears.

CarbonWorks2

The band released their extraordinary debut self-titled album CarbonWorks in December 2016 to rave reviews, and have been periodically releasing a new video for one of the album tracks.  In May 2017, I premiered the video for their gorgeous track “Monaco,” and am now delighted to premier their new videos for “End of the World Suite Part 3: The End” as well as “End of the World Suite Part 4: Winged Victory.” As indicated by their titles, the beautiful tracks are the completion of an ambitious four-part suite.

“Part 1: The Beginning of the End” is a mix of contemporary classical and rock, while “Part 2: Love and Illusion” combines classical, folk and jazz elements. For “Part 3: The End,” progressive jazz is the predominant element. The generous use of strings, including violin, cello and bass, combined with the gorgeous jazzy saxophone, guitar and drums, result in a truly stunning track. Barnard describes the track thusly: “Part 3 (“The End”) launches with cool bebop bass played by Jeff Reed. Russell jumps in on sax, with Mike on drums and me on guitar. Then the strings come in bringing a baroque element that somehow works with the driving jazz.” Although it’s six minutes long, it’s so wonderful that it seems over far too soon.

The suite ends with “Part 4: Winged Victory,” a brief but lovely track with a complex mix of classical and rock overtones, and features the dan tranh, a traditional Vietnamese instrument that’s similar to a Japanese koto. It also features sublime vocals sung in Latin by Italian singer Naif Herin, who ends with the words ” Beati pauperes spiritu, Beati pacifici,” which translated means “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the peacemakers.”

Both videos show the band performing the songs, which I always enjoy seeing.

Connect with CarbonWorks:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Soundcloud / Pandora / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes / Amazon

DAN FARRELL – Album Review: “Colliding Planets”

Dan Farrell Album

Dan Farrell is a singer/songwriter based in London, UK. A multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, bass and keyboards, as well as produces all of his tracks in his own home studio, he refers to himself as a “one man band.” That said, in his bio he explains “My main instrument is guitar which I play left handed – but with the strings strung for a right handed person. Consequently all the chords I play are upside down. Strange, but true.” It sounds complicated to me, but Dan manages to coax some pretty phenomenal sounds from his six-string.

He welcomed 2018 by releasing his third album Colliding Planets, an ambitious work featuring 15 tracks that dropped on January 12. Collectively, the songs on the album draw from a myriad of influences and genres, including rock, jazz, blues, country and pop, and a few tracks seem to include them all! Dan cites the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Queen, the Bee Gees and Amy Winehouse as some of his favorites, whose influences can clearly be heard on several tracks.

Dan Farrell

He kicks things off with “Salt of the Earth,” a rousing, foot-stomping country rock track. I like the aggressive drum beat, and Dan’s spirited guitar work make for an incredibly upbeat song. “She’s Still Drivin‘” keeps the energy flowing with a lively rock’n’roll tempo and Dan’s jangly guitars. After hearing just these two tracks, it’s clear he’s a skilled axe man. The sounds of a racing engine are a nice touch.

Tom Petty’s influence is evident on “Dreams of a Dreamer.” It’s a great song, with heavily strummed guitar set to a slow drumbeat. I love the added keyboards and guitar riffs. Dan sings about a woman he desires, but circumstances prevent anything from ever happening:

You’re thinking about me, it brings on a sigh
I’m wishin’ for something that we can never try
The dreams of a dreamer are making you sweat
Are making your heart beat a little faster

One of my favorite tracks is “Revealed in a Kiss,” a languid, jazzy affair with gentle guitars and sensuous horns that conjure up images of a romantic slow dance extending late into the evening. Dan’s smooth vocals are wonderful. “Don’t Blame Me” is a bouncy pop-rock track with jangly guitars and lush keyboards. Piano and keyboards take prominence on the lovely ballad “Get Inside Their Soul, and the bittersweet “The Blue Bar” has a country rock feel, and reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Dan sings of the passage of time and how some achieve their dreams, while others watch theirs turn to dust: “I used to share the same dreams that made us all survive. I used to have the same hopes that kept us all alive. / Then the revolution took it all away.”

“Another great track is “One Like You,” a fun rock’n’roll song about wanting to stay home with the object of his affection rather than go to work: “Well you know I got to go and earn a buck or two. But I’d rather spend my time with one like you.” Like all of Dan’s songs, it has terrific guitar work, and the lively trumpet and keyboards make for a really upbeat number. Dan turns introspective on the country rock track “Let It Go,” a song about letting go of the dream of being with someone he can never have and just moving on.

Just Because” is a mellow, upbeat song about not feeling guilty about indulging in the simple pleasures in life: “There doesn’t have to be an explanation for everything we do, every sensation. Sometimes it’s nice to do a lot a nothing. It’s good to go and treat yourself sometimes.” On the beautiful, uplifting ballad “I Tried,” Dan sings about believing in someone and encouraging them to take the right path in life. “I’ll always wish you well ’cause I believe in you. The road we choose is up to us, and sometimes life can make a fuss.”

One in a Million” has a sophisticated vibe with jangly guitars, soulful keyboards and jazzy horns. Dan wistfully sings about how things in life don’t always turn out the way you’d hoped: “The higher you climb the further you fall. You think you’re doing well standing tall. But then your best-laid plans they come crashing down. That youthful innocence you had is on the ground. One in a million has that perfect sound. Went and lifted my feet right off the ground.”

The catchy “The Man I Want to Be” serves up bouncy riffs, and in his gravelly vocals, Dan sings about how’s he matured into a better man. “Leave My Mark” is a rousing guitar-driven rock song, with a riff that channels the Rolling Stones’ hard-rocking “Start Me Up.”  Keeping with a Stones theme, album closer “You Only Know When You See” has a bit of a “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” vibe.

Colliding Planets is a fine, well-crafted album that showcases Dan’s exceptional guitar work and skill for writing catchy melodies and intelligent lyrics about life that we can all relate to.

To learn more about Dan, check out his Website and connect with him on Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on cdbaby / Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon