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davidpoegodanthegirlGod & The Girl

David Poe

July 3, 2014

Think Indie / Charming Martyr (BMI)

 

 

Poe is a name that is undeniably associated with the surroundings of nineteenth century American literature. Edgar Allan Poe’s dark romanticism with themes of macabre, death and mystery always attempts to focus onto having a certain effect on the beholder. This also holds true for the modern Poe we are discussing today.

 

David Poe is an accomplished artist with roots in midwest of the United States. He has written and composed a multitude of songs and musical arrangements. Through the years he released three previous studio albums himself and contributed to the work of other established acts such as Duncan Sheik, Daryll Hall, Grace Potter, Thomas Dybdahl, Curtis Stigers and Oh Land. He also contributes his art to television, Broadway plays and modern dance. He does all this with a great deal of success with no obvious need to take the limelight.

 

Poe seems content to reach an audience of true supporters without necessarily seeking out the masses. With this approach, Poe manages to create the art he loves and believes in and this comes across magnificently. On his self-titled debut he serves up roughly hewn gems like Blue Glass Fall and Apartment. On his sophomore attempt “The Late Album” the singer/songwriter (though this term should be loosely applied to Poe, as his music reaches beyond the boundaries of this vaguely defined label) comes off more polished with the restrained Drifter which, in another era, would’ve become a pop classic, the artsy The Late Song (Je Ne Suis Pas Mort) and the literary, gritty testimony to a changing entertainment world in Deathwatch For A Living Legend.

 

Poe’s growth continues as he releases his next album, “Love is Red”. This is basically an in-studio live album. The beauty of this album is that it doesn’t rely on individual songs. It presents as a whole, with a vibe that is both solemn and vibrant, courtesy of the old bunker in Berlin in which it was recorded. If there’s one song I’d have to pick to symbolize this it’d be Wilderness.

 

The artist David Poe, who experimented with pop, rock, electronic, jazz and other influences fused things together in a way that displayed his personal convictions (I would refer you to the criticism of political and military actions in Gun For A Mouth, which Poe debuted live in 2003) and an artistic believability towards himself and his listeners. But since the release of “Love is Red” in 2005, Poe turned his attention to other projects and expanded into other media. He contributed to Broadway projects (Whisper House), motion pictures (Harvest, Shadowland) and scored two dance productions (The Copier, Shadowland) as well as produced records for established names in popular music (Regina Spector, Jenifer Jackson & The Brendan Hines). A studio album of his own, however, didn’t materialize until just recently.

 

David Poe returns with “God & The Girl” which instantly delivers on the promise left by his earlier work. The untamed and brazen yet wildly talented musician has transformed into a more experienced, balanced artist who learned to focus his talent into music that delivers in message, meaning and emotion. On this new album, Poe manages to connect to the listener with the simplicity of essentials. It instantly starts with the sweet Honey Moon where Poe’s soft and intimate vocals speak directly to everyone who’s ever felt romantic love. The penultimate verse perfectly delivers the message of that emotion.

 

Poe doesn’t strike gold with every song on the album but he manages to draw you in regardless. Lonely Like Me has a certain vintage feel to it with the plucking of the strings and the twangy arrangement. Let There Be No Longing sends a simple but powerful message and lyrically, to me, the strength lies in the final line: “Long for vengeance/long for mercy/not the memory of what could not be.”

 

Tafetta serves as a little break as it doesn’t rely on a gentle, melodic line but a more rhythmic and offbeat arrangement that glimpses back to some of Poe’s older work and could also draw a comparison to some of the work of his friend and contemporary, Duncan Sheik. Following with Wild One, Poe instantly hits his sweet spot. To me, this song connects the familiar sound I remember from the debut and “The Late Album” with the more mature songwriting this new album provides us with. The slight haunting undertone contrasted by that jangly guitar, topped off by slightly philosophical lyrics like “strangers become friends/it changes, breaks and bends/can we make amends/or is this the end?” is a package that ultimately represents why David Poe belongs to the highest standard of modern songwriters.

 

On When I Fly, Poe reaches back to the familiar sound from his earlier work. Maybe a little more than I had hoped because it sounds like could’ve come straight off The Late Album. And just when I thought the remainder of the album was going to drift off into a musical arrangement trip down memory lane, Poe shows his growth and added experience instantaneously. World Above doesn’t sound like anything he’s released before. Absolute restraint emphasizes the wondering and solemnity that fills the song that covers big questions of belief and existence. Here’s where Poe shows he doesn’t just make music but that his words and arrangements have meaning and substance.

 

Remember tells the story of heartbreak but at the same time it serves as a metaphor of how hard it is to let things go and how much it hurts to lose something or someone that once consumed such an important part of your life. Poe delivers this with vigor and a hidden urgency that emphasizes the message of the lyrics tenfold. Poe continues with the same theme in Thank You, though the tone is more spiteful and the rhythm has a latin-inspired touch to it that reminds me of creative twists by Santana or Calexico. Sometimes songs overpower you or grab you by the throat in the first second. That didn’t happen for me, but from the first time I listened to this song I was instantly intrigued. And I still am.

 

Remember the early 70s? When country & western, folk and rock & roll were all still alive in all its glory. That’s what The Devil reminds me of. The lyrics are relatively simple and straightforward. The melody is subtle and the whole thing is topped off with that typical timbre that makes the folk songs of that time sound so iconic. The album ends with a cloudy song titled These Are The Days that once again bridges Poe’s older sound with the more experienced person and artist he has become through the years. And he ends the album in style by sending us a message that we all journey through this life searching for the way that befits us: “Raise a glass to the past and to the soldiers/and faded friends and happy ends and to the old/may we all live as long as we like/may we all be as strong as the wine.”

 

“The God & The Girl” bridges a gap of almost 10 years. It is instantly familiar to those who were drawn in by David Poe’s older work but also stands as a strong testament to the experiences and growth Poe endured in these times. There’s a certain balance and, dare I say, quiescence to this album that ties things together. There’s no Blue Glass Fall or The Drifter on this album that has that direct pop sensibility though I could definitely hear songs like Honey Moon, When I Fly and The Devil on the radio and maybe even Thank You could even be a dark horse in that department.

 

Fans of the artistic singer/songwriter genre will heartily embrace this new album, while many other people who will likely never even hear of this release. This is a shame and I hope music aficionados and radio professionals alike are going to pick up on this album because it shows the artistry and uniqueness of a worthy singer/songwriter. It is likely the most crowded genre in all of music because anyone with a guitar or piano is pigeonholed in this incredibly vague section of popular music. Therefore many talented people are getting snowed under by the sheer mass of releases in this so-called genre. David Poe shouldn’t be restricted to this genre or many others should not be shoved into this corner of popular music because it takes away from the uniqueness and meaningfulness of this artist and his music.

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Fauxbois – Carry On
May 18, 2010

Fauxbois is an interesting band. You can’t really call the music on their debut “Carry On” typical, nor can you call it mindblowing. The songwriting however is carefully constructed and the album varies heavily in tempo and intensity as well as in complexity.

“Carry On” starts off with a mid-tempo folky rocker, Hearts A Radio that is a fairly decent song but doesn’t pry open too many hearts yet. In the next song, Start Of My Slip, you can hear some of the songwriting power this band possesses. With purposely repetitive lyrics the song manages not to become boring. Due to the interaction between lyrics and musical arrangement the focus shifts towards one or the other so much that it doesn’t distract from the other but brings out the best of both.

Remember February is one of the songs that stuck with me after listening to the album a couple of times. The vocals are better than on most of the tracks and the guitar arrangement gives this song a key signature sound.

 

Other songs that are worth mentioning are Neptune, Ghosts And Fireflies and Dry Into Dust, the latter of which is more uptempo and gives the album a little more spirit, which was necessary at this point as we were stuck in midtempo for too long.

Overall it’s a decent album with good songwriting and carefully composed arrangements. Musically it’s all fine but vocally most of the tracks are subpar. But this is a minor flaw you can easily overcome as it doesn’t distract from the songs too much. The interaction between the different parts of the song works so well that it’s just a technicality.

“Carry On”, for a debut is fine, but to say that it guarantees a long and blossoming career for Fauxbois, I wouldn’t be too confident to go out on a limb and predict that. I’d say it’s a careful first step towards recognition but a lot of hard work remains to be done to reach the edges of the spotlights of stardom.

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Sara Jackson-Holman – When You Dream
May 18, 2010

While “When You Dream” is only a debut album, Sara Jackson-Holman immediately leaves a mark. There are certainly obvious influences from Irish and British contemporaries (Damien Rice, Norah Jones, Lily Allen) but Jackson-Holman manages not to sound like them, just similar.

With creative songwriting and outstanding vocal athleticism she manages to go in many directions without straying too far from the core of what she’s about musically. From the opener Come Back To Me she has a sort of playful sense in her vocals that works like a worm on a hook. And by the time you hear the first track’s last note it has reeled you in.

Lead single Into The Blue (which you may have heard on ABC’s ‘Castle’) is a rich and well-written piano song that switches in intensity. The piano melody is lush and recognizable and Jackson-Holman’s vocals are full of emotion. And through the album she keeps switching between more emotionally invested songs (the Damien Rice-like When You Dream, the serene California Gold Rush and the honest Train Ride.) and songs that come off more quirky like Cellophane or Let Me In.

I’ve heard from others that they feel her vocals aren’t always strong enough to carry the weight of the songs but I disagree completely. Sara Jackson-Holman has a distinct vocal sound but she can twist it in so many different directions that it can, in no way, be seen as weak. In fact, I think she’s a very gifted vocalist and on top of that she’s a good pianist. Making use of classical compositions and classical influences in her piano playing and song arrangements she is able to connect flavors from the past with a current sound that is not just of a high standard but also very exciting.

“When You Dream” is a remarkable debut album and if her sudden success is any indication, Sara Jackson-Holman is going to be a household name faster than you can pronounce it. This is good stuff. Very good!

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John Hill – John Hill [EP]
October 25, 2010

Meet John Hill, an acoustic folk/rock act from the Netherlands. If you have never heard of him until now, there’s a good reason for it. The “John Hill” EP is his first release. The feel of his music has been compared to masters like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens for example.

Inner Ear Media was approached to shine its light over this debut EP. And after a good number of listens I came to the conclusion that this is very solid singer/songwriter material. I wouldn’t go as far as to compare it to Dylan or Stevens right off the bat, but I do admit there’s a genuinity to the music that reminds you of forgotten musical eras. Hilgenkamp’s vocals are pure and honest and they envoke emotion, not only in himself and his music, but also in the imagination of the listener.

This is quite an accomplishment, because for singer/songwriters it is essential to make that personal connection with the listener, one way or another. Hannes Hilgenkamp, under the John Hill moniker does this in its purest, most honest way and, in a way, he invites the listener to accompany him in his music.

On the opener Does It Still Hurt the empathic vocals reach across, right into your heart. The storytelling presentation of the song gives the song even more credit. The more uptempo Sailin Home is a track that is pleasant to listen to and would have a decent chance on the regional and smaller radio stations in the country. Easy Prey is a little edgier and is just an extremely well-executed song. The final two songs, Hidin From Me and Decency are also of a very high quality. Especially the closer (Decency) is very subtle and comes across very personal. Additions from Florien Hilgenkamp (classical vocals) and Serge Bredewold (former bass player for Twarres and 16Down) shows he selects musical partners that can meet the high standard he set with his tracks.

Hilgenkamp proves to be not only a very accomplished songwriter as his songs are musically and lyrically relevant and accessible. He doesn’t dabble into easily available rhymes and shameless variations on melodies that have been used a million times, no he truly writes songs that don’t just sound fresh and original, they actually are fresh and original. He also proves he’s a true balladeer in the way he personalizes the song and enables the listener to do exactly the same. He brings across the story and makes an actual connection to those who open their hearts to these songs. It may only be a debut EP but it sounds like this man has been writing and performing songs for decades. He surely knows his stuff.

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Massy Ferguson – Hard Water
October 19, 2010

For those of you who enjoy the southern charm in music, a strong mix of ballsy southern rock and the gentle rootsy/americana influenced storytelling, from now on you can just as well find it in the Northwest. Massy Ferguson, hailing from Seattle is not the next grunge sensation, no, they don’t play grunge, but they might well be one of the newest sensations in country-rock music.

All through the past 6 decades there have been huge acts in this genre. The heydays may have been in the late 60s to mid 80s, but still the music has a huge following. And with their sophomore album, “Hard Water”, Massy Ferguson is bound to tap into that following. With an Eagles-like flair and sometimes the grit of Springsteen they release an album in the tradition of Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks. It doesn’t quite reach that level yet, but the band is starting to get awefully close.

“Hard Water” features 10 altcountry songs that are very pleasant to listen to and show a lot of musicality. There’s a certain honesty in this album that helps it flourish. Combined with the strong melodies and the passionate performance makes it a very strong release.

Standout songs are Freedom Country, Wenatchee Eyes & Dreams of St. Petersburg, but the whole album deserves a listen. Massy Ferguson is a band to watch. Their debut album may not have been top of the bill yet, but this second one surely belongs up there. And if they continue to evolve with this pace, there’s no telling where their story ends. One of the best albums in the genre in 2010.

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Lauren Bateman – I’ve Been Waiting
May 21, 2010

Lauren Bateman has slowly been building a name for herself in and around Boston over the past few years. With a full-length release ready she now sets her aims on the rest of the world.

“I’ve Been Waiting” features fairly simple singer/songwriter tracks that sound very smooth and Bateman’s vocals, though a little nasal at times, are fairly pleasant. The album’s not groundbreaking or anything but keeping in mind it’s a debut album it’s actually a pretty good release.

While the tracks may be fairly simple, the simplicity of the songs actually benefits them. Because Bateman didn’t fall into the trap of trying too much at once she focuses on doing it well. The songs are strong and the lyrics are accessible without becoming too obvious or cliché, which is an accomplishment on itself.

Civil Again was the first song on the album that convinced me as it showed a little more fire than the previous tracks. Beautiful Face and Happy Ever After are pretty good songs. Especially the latter. Very good vocal performance and the arrangement has a couple of subtle, yet strong accents that give the track more power and sincerity.

With Linger and I Gave, Bateman shows a grittier side of herself. With more rock influences these songs have more power and energy and this is the side of Bateman I’d like to hear more in the future. Because the songs have more body they come off more convincingly and the songs benefit from the richer arrangements. Especially I Gave is a very strong track. Probably the strongest track on the album.

The closer Everything’s OK is decent but not the most memorable track on “I’ve Been Waiting”. All in all it’s a debut that shows a lot of promise and with a full band behind her, Bateman could grow out to be an interesting act to follow around. Her vocals have a lot of power and when there’s a little more fire and energy in the songs she allows herself to really get into the music. And those are the moments she excells. With a little more experience and more recordings under her belt I reckon this is only just the beginning for Lauren Bateman.

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Allie Moss – Late Bloomer
October 11, 2010 (UK Only)

Allie Moss’ full-length release “Late Bloomer” starts off with the catchy single Corner. It’s one of those songs that you will have in your head for the rest of the week after you listened to it. And Corner is a good representative for the whole album. Allie Moss showcases strong songwriting and a unique vocal color on this album.

Many of the songs that appear on “Late Bloomer” also appeared on her previous EP release, “Passerby”, but on this album these songs are accompanied by a few newer songs. Dig With Me, which was played in the TV show ‘Pretty Little Liars’ is a heartfelt song that’s perfectly suitable to be used in TV shows. The sympathetic sound and the build up into the chorus accompanied by the supporting keys arrangement makes for a rich song which is very accessible.

Another newer song is the jolly Melancholy Astronautic Man. Allie’s been playing this song live for some time and it almost always gets a very good response. The uptempo and easily recognizable chorus has you singing along in no time and the playful vocals only accentuate that. The title track Late Bloomer was one of the tracks that probably impressed me the most. It has a certain honesty and purity over it that instantly reminded me of Joni Mitchell.

A song I was very curious for was Leave It All Behind as I heard Greg Holden joined in the recording of this tune. And as I had expected this track turned out to be another very good song. It doesn’t always work when you put two talented people together, but in this case it turned out beautifully. I can still hear the “oh oh oh” in my head.

The rest of the album consists of the tracks that were already featured on “Passerby” and those songs haven’t lost anything of their power. Once again I would have to say that the believablity and honesty in the music, combined with Allie’s unique vocals is what makes it stand out. Key tracks like Melancholy Astronautic Man, Late Bloomer & Passerby are excellent examples of how good this lady really is.

“Late Bloomer” covers different bases as Allie Moss is able to go from uptempo to slower paced songs with ease. She varies not only in tempo, but also in moods and intensity without ever losing any credibility or pop sensibility. It’s not something that hasn’t been done before but the power is in the delivery. There are thousands of singer/songwriters out there and many of them are quite good, so it’s hard to really stand out. But with the sincerity and honesty Allie Moss is able to embed in her songs there is no question that she stands out among many of her peers.

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Taylor Carson – Defending The Name
September 14, 2010

Taylor Carson is a storyteller. An old-fashioned balladeer. In the tradition of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, James Taylor, Josh Ritter and the likes. You may notice I refer to some of the very, very best in the history of storytelling music. I do this on purpose to accentuate how Taylor Carson steps up his game on “Defending The Name”. He’s been out there for awhile, releasing music every so often. But with this new release he takes a huge leap forward and this album is bound to give him some well-deserved recognition.

Right from the opener, Moonshiner, this (sort of) autobiographic album starts to paint he picture of Carson’s family tree. He continues this trend down throughout the album, which features 16 songs of the highest quality. And through the classic mold of balladeering Carson doesn’t lose sight of the pop sensibility in his songs. Listen to Five, Freight Train or Smoke for example to hear what I mean.

“Defending The Name” is an album that is versatile. You may think that is a bold statement, but some of the songs tell a story that you just want to hear until the end, some of the songs are so endearing you can’t let go and there are songs that are simply beautiful in their simplicity.

Carson uses the lyrics as an additional instrument and enriches his songs by interweaving the music, the lyrics, the story, the feel, the message, the rhythm, the melody, everything to a collection of songs that breathe life, that breathe emotion. “Defending The Name” is by all means a modern-day masterpiece and Taylor Carson shows he’s ready to take the step into the spotlight that he now more than deserves.

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Maxwell Jury – Rhythm of the Rain
August 2010

A songwriting major at Berklee College of Music, Max Jury recently released a three song single titled “Rhythm of the Rain”. It features three tunes that are influenced by classic pop. Influences like Aimee Mann and Paul Simon come to mind pretty quickly.

All three songs are fluent and quite catchy and certainly have pleasant arrangements. The singing and playing is all in order, but the strength lies in the songwriting. The songs are constructed carefully and dilligently. Especially Change Your Mind For Me is an impressive tune.

This kid is still quite young, but already knows how to work a song. As the years will go by and he will learn more tricks of the trade I can definitely see him become a songwriter of name. And if he’s able to find some musicians with a similar vision on music he could very well form a very capable band that should have plenty of potential with a strong songwriting basis like Jury consistently shows on this early release.

check out two of the tunes on his myspace page:
http://www.myspace.com/maxjurymusic

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Derek Clegg – Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck
November 30, 2010

We gave Derek Clegg’s previous record (“KJC”) a favorable review. His ingenuity and the fact that he does pretty much everything by himself, from start to finish, is something that can only higher your respect for this talented musician.

On his new release, “Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck”, which is once again available for a ‘pay what you want’-fare (go here to listen to, download or buy the album), builds on the same principles as “KJC”. The indie/folk mix works with Clegg’s pleasant vocals.

The album starts with It’s Over which is a very accessible, mid-tempo song that eases you into this record. But right on the next track, The Best That I Can Be, Clegg shows us what he’s really made of. The arrangement of the song shows creativity and Clegg also isn’t afraid to change it up a little bit. He doesn’t use too many bells and whistles, he sticks to the song as it is.

On the next tune we hear a guest musician (Tim James). Don’t Care is one of my favorite tracks of “Here Comes Your Fate..” as it is a song that easily gets stuck in your head. The smooth progression of the song makes it a very good candidate to pursue radio play with. This song has a lot of potential, it sounds very current and could help Derek Clegg find that breakthrough he may be looking for. It certainly confirmed my opinion of his talent. Find It Someday features some interesting guitar stuff but isn’t the most memorable song on the album even though it’s more than solid. Only The Lonely (featuring Leon Harris) didn’t stick with me as much as the rest of the album as it kind of just slowly mutters on. The next song Say Something however is another potential radio release. The song is essentially uncomplicated, with which I mean that it doesn’t sound forced and that the song is quite basic which makes it accessible and quite catchy. And I find myself singing “say something, say something good…” for quite some time after I listened to the song.

The acoustic Stay or Go is another strong song. It took some time for me to really warm up to the song, but the song has a certain power to it that gets to you eventually. I imagine it is most likely Clegg’s vocals that draw you in, in the end. And it’s built up pretty nicely as well. Love This Place features Ben Ames and the song stands out as it’s quite different from the rest. But it definitely is one of the album’s highlights. Interesting guitar work and good vocals. It has the surfy, summery, groovy feel that singer/songwriters like Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Donavon Frankenreiter, etc. are known for, but at the same time it’s very round and melodic. Musically this is definitely one of the stronger songs on “Here Comes Your Fate…” The album closer The Slow Down has some electronic work to it and I haven’t been able to really warm up to it. I’m not sure if it really is, but at times it comes across a little messy or foggy to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it hasn’t been able to convince me really.

All in all, “Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck” is a solid follow-up to “KJC”. It has some excellent songs (The Best That I Can Be, Don’t Care, Love This Place) that really show a lot of potential and may very well facilitate a chance for Clegg to become known more widely. His talent surely justifies that. He delivered yet another strong album that you can give a spin, or even download, for free. And if you like it, don’t hesitate to chip in a few coins to compensate the artist, so he can keep on presenting us with these little treats of music.

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