Jenny Reynolds - "Any Kind Of Angel" pretty ok music & publishing
One would not expect a native New Englander to write and perform country music. However, since transplanting to Austin, TX in 2003, that is exactly what Reynolds has been doing. "Angel," her fourth album, is a collection of stories, intricately woven into narrative tales about life, love and the struggles we all face every day. Her voice is easy to listen to and I found myself paying attention to understand what she was trying to say in her songs. Recorded at Congress House Studios in Austin, the musicians include some of the city's finest. "Love and Gasoline" is probably my favorite track but overall, this is really wonderful music. It is well written, finely arranged, and expertly performed. As a country music transplant, this work is exceptional.
The Moore-McColl Jazz Society - "Electric Fantastic" Self-Released
"Electric Fantastic," the debut release from Beth Moore and Chance McColl, is a collection of mostly contemporary jazz, some traditional jazz and some blues thrown in for good measure. Unlike a lot of music today, "Electric" was recorded live with all musicians in the studio at the same time. There are tracks that have a vibrant energy with compounding horns and a frenetic pace, like the title track. On several tracks, and something not especially common in a lot of smooth jazz, Moore lends her excellent vocal capabilities. This is a work that covers what most jazz fans like about the genre - great beat, smoothness, improv, energy, and very easy to listen to and like. I know I did.
David Bach - "Fierce Heart" Integrity Music
I first reviewed "Otherworld" by David Bach on November 22, 2013 so this makes my second look at the talents he has at hand. Bach has been a prominent figure in the Baltimore, MD jazz scene for some time now. He has performed with well known smooth jazz artists such as Spyro Gyra and Nick Colionne and his awards in the greater Maryland and Washington, DC jazz scene are numerous. "Fierce Heart" is not all that unlike "Otherworld," which I also really enjoyed. While mostly contemporary, smooth jazz, there are also hints of traditional jazz as well. Bach is a skilled composer and arranger and his piano playing is equally excellent. On this release, Bach contributes all synth, organ and keyboard duties. He is joined by the more well known jazz instruments including sax, guitar, percussion, bass and drums. I thought this was a standout release, his sixth, and it seems he just gets better and better. Anyone who, like me, enjoys smooth jazz as their primary genre should take a journey into "Fierce Heart." It is well worth the ride.
Tom Guerra - "Sudden Signs Of Grace" Casa Del Soul Productions Worldwide
Tom Guerra is also an artist whom I have had the pleasure to previously review. On November 30, 2018, I reviewed Guerra's third solo release, "American Garden." Every single nuance that so thoroughly and totally captivated me about that work has repeated itself for his fourth release, "Sudden Signs Of Grace." Of the eleven total tracks, nine are original works by Guerra, and two are covers - one by Gram Parsons and the other by Eddie Money. Like his previous work, this latest one is a well written, finely arranged collection of mostly good ole rock and roll, albeit with an occasional pop flavor. Guerra's guitar skills are as evident as ever and he seems like he is really enjoying what he is doing during recording sessions. Alongside his longtime collaborator, Kenny Aaronson, who played for Bob Dylan, George Harrison and others, "Grace" is an album that has that "thing" that makes it something to which the listener must pay attention. Follow up works to previously successful ones are sometimes difficult. Guerra has none of that problem as "Grace" is by any measure a standout work of good, almost vintage rock and roll.
Vibes Alive - "Vibrasonic" Swing Ding Music
On the surface, having the tandem duo of a guitar and a vibraphone as lead instruments in a contemporary, smooth jazz release might seem otherwise improbable. However, that is exactly what happens in "Vibrasonic." Probably equally improbable is the fact that their previous release, also very well received, dropped a surprising twelve years earlier. While we're at it, let's take improbability one step further - this is only the third release in the twenty three year collaboration between Dirk Ritcher (Vibes) and Randall Crissman (Guitar). The vibraphone as a jazz instrument was popularized by the legendary Lionel Hampton and I'm guessing not since his day was an instrument so utilized on a jazz work. Trading back and forth, both guitar and vibes are equally shared, and they seamlessly blend together. This work is so well crafted it really seems like it would not work without this tandem duo of instruments. The work is one of smooth jazz, which is my favorite, and my toe was tapping more than once. Track Number 2, Vibrasonic, has had airplay on Sirius XM's "Watercolors" smooth jazz station. So, the instant I heard this track begin, I knew I had heard it before. Making the improbable probable is no easy feat. However, in "Vibrasonic" that is precisely what happens. And then some.
Michael McDermott - What In The World..." Pauper Sky Music
Michael McDermott has had a very circuitous route in his journey through music. His first release, 1991's "620 West Surf" was hailed as a masterpiece. He was claimed by all who cared as the next great singer, songwriter. His voice had an uncanny similarity to both Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and both on the same album. Sadly, the trappings of sudden and early fame beset him, and his career was sidelined by addiction to alcohol, drugs and even jail. In 2016, he released "Willow Springs," his first album in many years written, produced and recorded sober. He credits Heather Horton, a violinist he hired for his band, and subsequently his wife, for helping him to find sobriety. I reviewed "Willow Springs" on October 7, 2016 and found it absolutely captivating. McDermott's talents as a songwriter are incredible. His songs tell a story to which the listener simply must pay attention. His music ranges from a simple arrangement to a rock sound. But the story telling. Oh my. That is what sets his music apart. He sings of his early troubles, about sobriety, and about the challenges we all must face. His voice, once again, can be compared to Dylan and Springsteen. In fact, on track number one, "What In The World," it sounds like that same guy who sang "Blowin' In The Wind" is also singing this song. I will always enjoy a musically well crafted song. When I can also combine that experience with a profound narrative, well, it makes the enjoyment all the more. McDermott is a master craftsman of music, thought provoking music. His incredible talents are on display in this, his latest release. Like a great, well told story in a song? Look no further.