by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC
Universal, philosophical thoughts and questions about life are the stuff of opening number “Unfolding As I Go.” But Glen continues this pondering in one way or another throughout the offerings of Unfolding, often in the form of storytelling. His pleasant, rangy and expressive voice is backed up by some talented guitar work and an ensemble made up of Dan Hickey (drums), Mark Dann (bass, roto-electric Guitar), Sloan Wainwright, Penny Nichols, Amy Soucy, Sharon Goldman, Chris Kunstadter (vocals), Sue Riley (piano and vocals). The recording has a live, present feel, and some beautiful vocal harmony work, especially evident in “Beautiful Now” and “Dandelion Dreams.” “No Problems Today” is fun and lighthearted, while “Life’s Too Short” finds Glen as a bee, a piece of bread, then a fan, pondering the worries and joys of such states of existence having in common the feeling that life’s too short. A fun, thoughtful, inspirational, and talented songwriter and a great offering!
ALL OUR LUCK IS CHANGING
Claudia Russell possesses a disarmingly warm folk/bluegrass voice, perfectly showcased in the opening number “Pirate Girls,” a lovely musical painting of a homey, family life through the eyes of a child. Title song “All Our Luck is Changing” is the whimsical tale of a child’s first family vacation. But Claudia also writes of more adult musings in songs like ‘Silver Bird,’ and the surprising “I Remember the Wind.” “Hey Hey” is another standout on this excellent album.
Claudia is backed up by Carl Byron (Hammond organ, piano, accordion), Peter Case (guitar, harmonica, banjo), Debra Dobkin (drums and percussion), Paul Eckman (acoustic bass), Danny Frankel (drums and percussion), Bruce Kaplan (mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar) and Tom Tally (viola and fiddle). Recommended!
Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot had a love child, raised with the help of godmothers Judy Collins and Maria Muldaur. Surely this is how singer/songwriter Kirsten Maxwell got her start. A listen to her voice and turn-of-phrase/lyrics, and these luminaries will be brought to mind. All songs on Crimson are original compositions. The first standout element of this recording is the purity of Kirsten’s voice. Sweet, with a presence and intimacy rarely found in today’s crop of American Idol-type singers trying to best each other within the same narrow singing criteria. Kirsten, on the other hand, seems confident and sure of her own lyrical style which, while reminiscent of some of the greats, is clearly and distinctively her own. Expressive, and beautifully ornamented vocal phrases never sacrifice a melodic line for vocal gymnastics or showmanship for the sake of showmanship. And the melodies are indeed beautiful. Especially noteworthy are “All I Am,” which exquisitely showcases her musicality, “Goodbye”, and the relationship epic/ anthem “We Always Miss.” The very last, titular song “Crimson” holds a tenderness and poetic baring of the soul; a poignancy and universal sadness over the relationship which seems meant to be yet never seems able to be. On it Kirsten relinquishes her excellent backup musicians, and even her sweet soprano for an earthier alto, which, with her own simple guitar accompaniment, accentuates the beautiful, intense and intimate relationship with her audience. Her backup musicians include Mark Newman (Guitar, Dobro, Lap Steel and Mandolin), Shawn Murray (Drums) Don Celenza (Electric Bass), Bill Heller (Piano), Mike Hall (Upright Bass), Mauro Refosco (Percussion) and Sierra Knotts (Violin). A highly recommended, beautiful debut album from an artist to watch!
YOGA FOR KIDS:
The modern investigation into the practice of yoga and its many benefits is by no means a new one. What was once often misinterpreted as a highly esoteric and religious practice that made its way to the West as a means of enlightenment for the elite is finally being seen, now more than ever, as what it really is: a process of integration and connection. For thousands of years practitioners of all ages, regardless of religious, ethnic, cultural and monetary backgrounds, have experienced the life-enhancing effects of simply moving and breathing in a mindful manner – one in which kids yoga teacher, Jodi Komitor, explains, “Allows for a deeper connection with the inner self and our surroundings.”
In addition to this connection the benefits for children who practice yoga, and more specifically, the themed yoga routines found in Outer Space Blastoff with Komitor, vary from building strength and coordination to increasing body awareness and concentration. And what’s even better than all that is how much fun the kids are having while doing it!
Remarkably imaginative, Outer Space Blastoff consists of three interactive and highly educational yoga sessions that promise to take your child all the way from their yoga mats to a galaxy far, far away, while gaining the physical, mental and emotional benefits of practicing traditional yoga postures and breathing techniques, moving spontaneously, creatively and instinctively, and learning to express themselves openly and freely.
Komitor’s enthusiasm and passion for working with children through the teachings of yoga is evident in her every gesture and word. Her thoughtful class planning allows for the children to explore and express themselves in new ways while at the same time, feeling completely supported and unconditionally accepted. This is a video and a practice every child should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy. Plus, it is one that moms, dads, sisters, brothers and best friends can do together, further instilling and fulfilling the desire for connection that is inherent in all of us. In addition to Outer Space Blastoff, Jodi and Gaiam have also collaborated to create the kids yoga DVD, Dino-Mite Adventure. To learn more, visit Gaiam.com.
Reviewed by Erica Settino