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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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John Taglieri – Lucky #9
(April 17, 2012 – Leap Dog Music)

Everyone probably knows the feeling that music can be so familiar, so safe, that it almost feels like a home to you. A place you can hide in or that can take you away from the world. I’m sure everyone has at least one artist or band, or at least an album or a song that has that effect on them. For me that is true with John Taglieri’s music.

Because of all the honest passion and endless energy John weaves in his songs it always gets me going again. After I listen to his songs I have the energy to get on my feet and do all those things that I’ve been putting off. And I feel like there is nothing I cannot do. To quote the legendary Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try!” This music is my Yoda.

On Lucky #9 Taglieri spins tales of love and frustration, anger and commitment. He takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and issues that range from anger in the edgy rocker ‘Losing Me‘ to betrayal in the cleverly composed ‘Never Knew‘ to absolute commitment in ‘Without You‘ which starts out acoustic and evolves into an powerful pop anthem testament to love.

On ‘Dying Alive‘ John Taglieri pulls out all the stops to describe how much love can mean and how much it can hurt if you feel like it’s slipping away. Listen to the powerful emotion in the bridge. That is classic John Taglieri who can wear a song like other people wear clothes. The EP continues with an uptempo semi-acoustic song called ‘Make Me Believe‘ which is somewhere in the middle of what Sister Hazel, Gin Blossoms and Nine Days used to send into the world, yet Taglieri still manages to make it sound like John Taglieri in the first place. And since we all need someone to make us believe in love, this song is for everyone. When we near the end of this EP we hear an intro that is reminiscent of Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album. The uplifting melody combined with the message of taking action after realizing you don’t have to put your life on halt for someone else is inspiring.

John Taglieri is an honest musician who writes songs that everyone can relate to. The music isn’t pretentious, instead it is full of passion, energy and honesty. The songs on Lucky #9, at times are a little rough around the edges and the EP doesn’t have a fancy production, but that’s exactly what these songs need. Taglieri is a pure artist that writes pure and honest songs and we need them to sound that way too. Which is exactly what we got. Lucky #9 is yet another admirable release by an independent musician who knows what he does best. And trust me, when he visits a town nearby you, don’t hesitate, go to his show. It’s a ton of fun and you get to hear these songs really come to life.

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Cutback – Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word
January 24, 2011

Awhile ago we reviewed Cutback’s single release “Audio Suicide”. The rock band from the UK now returns with a full-length album called “Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word”.

The band has grown since the release of “Audio Suicide”. While they already portrayed a lot of energy the energy is now more channeled and the songs sound smoother and slicker and therefore come off more convincing.

The songs are powerful and entertaining and get your juices flowing. The opener Fix is like a plane’s turbo engines blasting the energy right through you and sets the tone for the album quite well. They follow with the radio-friendly One Last Time, which is a familiar song for those who already listened to the single last year. The infectious tempo and the strong work on the drums by Karl Jagger gives this song a powerful and energetic feel that works really well for this band.

Other songs that should be mentioned are the power anthem Breathe which is more paced down and is a good example of the increased vocal control of vocalist Chris Sammacicci, but also the punky 17 and the indie-rocker Fire, which may very well be the band’s breakout song. Good vocals, excellent guitar work and pounding drums. And with the heavy infusion of indie bands into mainstream radio in the past 5 years it’s hard to find new talent, but with that song, Cutback may have very well found justification to have their name known by a much, much wider audience. The rest of the album is of a good quality as well, with another impressive track (Sunrise) to close out the disc.

I was intrigued when I heard “Audio Suicide” but with the new release, “Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word”, Cutback delivers on their promise. In less than a year, they show real growth and improvement and with a solid album and a few excellent songs (Fire in particular) they are ready to take it to the next level!

 

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South of Heaven – ..a beautiful winter..
December 28, 2010

This relatively unknown band from Arnhem in the Netherlands recently released a new album called “..a beautiful winter..” The band describes the CD as a collection of songs influenced by different styles in rock, blues, soul and punk. And that’s only the start of it.

First of all the songs are all written very well and the band is able to change in tempo, in loudness and by that they manage to keep the songs to sound fresh and exciting. Together with a slick production, the album doesn’t fall together like one big blur, but all the songs get a chance to stand out. From the more paced down opener Room In Your Life to the pointy Internet Pornography, the alternative rock song Love and the radio-friendly Blue Dress to the beautiful melodic closer Amsterdam, every song is convincing and impressive.

The vocals are very present throughout the album and on every song they are of the highest quality. Vocalist Richard Huijzer (ex-Fedchenka) is able to change in pitch and intensity seemingly without ease and Chris Gerretsen’s (also ex-Fedchenka) guitar work is outstanding. Together with a perfectly balanced rhythm section this collective of musicians has the talent and experience to figure out what they want and execute it in a way that deserves recognition and applause.

“..a beautiful winter..” is a very good album and begs the question how long it will take for this band to break through. Cause that just has to be a matter of time. The quality and talent is there, the album’s produced well, the musicians have performance experience and many of the songs are fit for radio. All I see is pluses. Audiences of the world, listen up, South of Heaven is ready to rock your eardrums.

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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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