by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC
20TH CENTURY GIRL
The title lament, 20th Century Girl (in a 21st Century world), speaks volumes about this talented and “on-the-mark” comedienne/musician/songwriter. Rapid fire observations with a healthy dose of humor, and some great idiosyncratic musical touches and references challenge the listener NOT to smile, chuckle, and make a list of friends to share Lois Morton’s creative genius with. Another reviewer used the term “intricate wordplay” – a well-chosen description of Ms. Morton’s work. Sprinkled amongst the comedic gems (“Road Rage,” “The GPS Song,” “The Diet is Cast,” “The Thrift Shop Rag”) are some seriously lovely offerings (“On the Boat of a Million Years,” “Painted Canvas,” “Many Shades of Green,” and “Stay a Little Longer”). A truly enjoyable and spirit-lifting offering!
“Powerful” is the word for Rorie Kelly’s singing and guitar playing, which is captured admirably in this live recording from the lobby of the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Musings, questionings and demands revolving about human relationships abound in a style somewhat reminiscent of early Alanis Morissette. A haunting quality (especially evident in “The Weather”) comes to the fore at times. At others, it seems she can barely get the words, emotions, and thoughts out fast enough. Her guitar playing matches this intensity. An artist I’m sure we will be hearing about more and more. She is joined on various songs by Claire Raby (vocals), John-flor Sisante (keyboards, xylophone), Katie Pearlman (drums), Kevin Kelly (bass guitar), and Sean Virag (lead guitar).
Vocal and guitar blues meets Eastern spirituality, and it’s a great meeting! Smooth, melodic, lovely vocals, with a worthy, thoughtprovoking message seem the hallmark of all of Ms. Kirtland’s offerings, yet these messages are brought to the personal level, sometimes deeply so, which is perhaps why her songs are so effective. Included is a beautiful ballad, “Manhattan.” Other notable cuts include “Sugar Burns,” “Pride,” “No One Compares With You,” and “Photographs.”
Ms. Kirtland is joined by some excellent musicians: Steve Finkelstein (percussion), Stu Woods (bass), Ruben Austin (bass), Mark Mancini (piano), Mike Nugent (guitar harmonics, lead guitar), Greg Krokta (harmonica), Mark Newman (slide guitar), Suzanne Mueller and John Preddice (cello) and Janet Leto, Maag Stanley, and Leslie Zimei (backing vocals). A truly enjoyable listen, again and again.
MESA VERDE SOUNDSCAPES
Beautiful, in composition, scoring and execution; Mesa Verde Soundscapes is Artist in Residence Jill Haley’s musical expression of the scenery, life and spirit of World Cultural Heritage Site and National Park, Mesa Verde. And what a wonderful, musical/virtual tour she provides. Opening ‘Chapin Daybreak’ weds elements of modern Native American music with a universal classical idiom expressed to perfection in the scoring of Oboe and Piano. Other pieces are equally impressive, utilizing varied combinations of English horn, piano, oboe (Ms. Haley), guitar, bass David Cullen), horn (Dana Cullen), cello (Graham Cullen), and viola (Risa Cullen).
The copy reviewed came with a booklet of photographs and captions by Ms. Haley, representing the inspiration for each tone poem.
There are some exquisite pieces here. Piano, oboe and English horn sing at the touch of Ms. Haley’s hands. Highly recommended!
Mr. Sparks subtitled this work “Quiet piano to replenish your spirit.” It’s a fitting subtitle. Opening with a Gordon Lightfoot cover (“Beautiful”), which Mr. Sparks makes all his own, the album progresses with other excellent covers and original compositions. His clean and sure piano is augmented to great effect by synthesized strings and vocals, always in tasteful balance to his star-turn piano playing. The title song “Endless,” inspired, as was the album in its entirety, by the star-filled night sky, is exquisite. The “Wexford Carol” is another standout. Highly recommended.