Chuck Hawthorne – “Fire Out Of Stone” – 3 Notches Music
When it comes to Texas, few places are more aligned with music than Austin. And it is from there where Chuck Hawthorne hails. His first release, the 2015 “Silver Line” was critically acclaimed. Now he follows that up with ten tracks of stories, that’s the best way I can put it, about life. Hawthorne is a masterful storyteller. I’ve written before how much I enjoy a song that delves into a subject and tells an interesting story. Such is how this work plays. From a genre standpoint, it could be classified as both Country and / or Folk music. Hawthorne describes the song selection this way: “I started looking into my back catalog selecting songs about survival, transition and moving on – crucible songs – making “Fire Out Of Stone.” It turns out I had quite a few to pick from. If you like a great story told with masterful lyrics and a simple, melodic score, try “Stone” out for size.
Rod Picott – “Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil” – Welding Rod Records
Imagine getting a call from your doctor, at night no less, and told there is a prescription waiting for you at the drug store, and further hearing your your heart is about to either seize up or jump out of your chest. If you were a songwriter, think that might offer some inspiration? Well, that is a pretty accurate description of the gist of Picott’s latest work. Mostly, all twelve tracks are melodically soft and mellow. Perhaps that is the result of his heart condition at the time of writing. Perhaps it is just how he felt at the time. His stated goal was he wanted songs that told the truth, songs stripped of everything but the music. Picott even recorded the entire work at home and then turned it over to be mixed. Generally, these twelve tracks tell a story of an individual journey and are his most personal collection of songs to date. I suppose nearly having major heart problems will do that. In any event, this is a work that tells a story. And does so magnificently.
Chris & Adam Carroll – “Good Farmer” – Broken Jukebox Media
Husband and wife duo Chris and Adam Carroll have been touring together since 2013 so it seemed to make sense to release an album as a duo. They had developed a dedicated following as a touring group, so an actual album was considered more of a necessity than anything else. Because they had spent so much time on tour, these ten tracks were recorded in just one day and pursues the goal of capturing their live sets. From a genre standpoint, think County, more reasonably Folk. The arrangements are mostly simple consisting of guitars, mandolins, harmonica, and violins. While Chris has a very pleasing voice, Adam sort of “sing / talks” his parts. This is not to say it does not sound good or is uninteresting, because that is not the case. But his presentation will never be likened to an opera singer. All of this doesn’t really matter because this is manifestly good, simple, listenable music that tells a story.
Dover Quartet – “The Curtis Session” – Bimperl Entertainment & Media
The Dover Quartet has enjoyed international fame after capturing, well, sweeping all first-place awards at the 2013 Banff Competition, being named the Cleveland Quartet award winner and honored with an Avery Fisher Career Grant. This is a string only work consisting of two violins, one viola and one cello. This project began as an informal recording of Dreams from life awake at the Curtis Institute. More amazing still is that all four movements were recorded in sequence with only one take and utilizing only two microphones. Perhaps more unbelievably still is that there were no edits. These four musicians simply performed absolute perfection. The four movements ebb and flow, sometimes rising to great heights follows by periods of softness. All four musicians blend together harmoniously and the music flows along. If you like intimate, precise chamber music, performed by an ensemble that does so with superb perfection, this one is a great choice.
Melbreeze – “Amethyst” – MCC
What initially caught my eye when I picked up this CD was who designed the jacket. I found the cover art remarkable and whereupon opening the jacket itself immediately thought “this looks really cool.” CD jacket appearance is not a definition for how the music will sound, however. Fortunately, what lay within the CD itself was just as “cool” as the jacket. All thirteen tracks are covers of music more or less from the American Songbook. With tracks like Paul Simon’s “The Sound Of Silence” and the Sondheim classic “Send In The Clowns,” Turkish born Melbreeze delivers a stunning work that sounds like it could be in a Paris nightclub. Track 2, the aforementioned “The Sound Of Silence,” even has a hint of electronica. This is very highly enjoyable music that is perfectly listenable. Both the arrangements and performance are stellar. It has been said that Melbreeze has a unique style and a very specific aesthetic and to understand she must be heard. I’ve heard. And I couldn’t agree more. Unique, captivating, magnificent.