Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CD Review: Kimberly Haynes' 'Awaken Me'

Kimberly Haynes
Awaken Me
Wise Old Owl Recordings

California singer/songwriter, Kimberly Haynes, brings us eleven songs infused with delicate musical arrangements, graceful vocals, and spacious melodies on Awaken Me. Kimberly knows how to create beautiful songs with a soul. The music arouses new age leanings, world music fusions, Middle Eastern panache, and South Asian traditions for a truly unforgettable musical journey. The meditative opener and album title track, "Awaken Me," is a perfect introduction to the album, as it sets a steady tone amidst hang drum, frame drums, bass, bell, synth, and guitars. The Middle Eastern-influenced tune, "The Dreams," adds a more upbeat element with strings, guitars, and a gopichand. "The Light Of My Soul" strengthens Kimberly's pop presence with light percussion, fluid bass-lines, and excellent vocals throughout. The contemporary edge is rather reduced overall, but some songs are more pronounced and melodic. Kimberly's voice is akin to Canada's Susan Aglukark, but Donna De Lory and Natalie Merchant are similar influences, too. Awaken Me will cause everyone to wake up and listen to a small portion of beautiful music contained in this world. Let Kimberly be your guide to open that world for you! ~ Matthew Forss  

Monday, August 22, 2016

CD Review: Simrit's 'Songs Of Resilience'

Songs Of Resilience

Born in Greece and raised in South Carolina, Simrit Kaur invokes the sounds of South Asia and Africa on her latest release, Songs Of Resilience. The eight-song album incorporates a mixture of new age, lounge, and world music-inspired tunes that include harmonium, kora, conga, log drums, bass, slide guitar, piano, acoustic guitar, and mellotron. The rather spacious arrangements are very cinematic, thought-provoking, and infectious. The electronic elements are reduced, but the results are very magical. The kora arrangements are reminiscent of Rokia Traore's songs on Tchamantche (Nonesuch, 2009). The vocals are fluid, emotive, and breath-taking throughout. The yoga-inspired traditions of the world are accentuated here. There is even a Native American element that fits nicely with the rest of the album. Simrit incorporates a mix of English and Sanskrit vocals with new age instrumentation indicative of Katie Melua's contemporary songs and similarities to Zero 7 and Dala Girls are certainly represented here. Get ready for a guilt-free romp through a yoga-filled journey of music with Simrit. This is simply one of the best recordings of the year. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CD Review: Galliano Sommavilla's 'Vol. 30 Ambient and Mellow'

Galliano Sommavilla
Vol. 30 Ambient and Mellow

Galliano Sommavilla, hailing from Australia, has released his latest compilation of songs borne out of a-song-a-day-project. Having released several albums of songs created each day over one year as part of his 365 project, Galliano continues to amaze listeners with his instrumental splendor on keyboards, guitars, percussion, and piano sounds. The latest album, Vol. 30..., contains fourteen tracks that are found in no particular order and titled "song/day". The whole feel of the album encompasses a more down-tempo theme that is serene and exploratory with a blissful side.

"Song/Day 110" begins with a sauntering piano-like melody with piercing atmospheric washes, and jazzy percussion that incorporates a sexy brass sound. The rolling bass and fluid, yet uppity tune, conjures up images of a smoky jazz lounge or a down-tempo gem that will not get out of one's head after listening to it the first time. Mesmerizing electric guitar sounds are rather solid near the end of the song. The twinkling piano keys and fluid bass-line with a sporadic blurts of trumpet make "110" a necessary listen.

"Song/Day 317" opens with a blurby, electronic-tinged intro with sweeping atmospheric sounds, punchy sounds, and horn-driven noises amidst a lush bass-line and percolating guitar strums. The song moves along with new age elements and a jazzy beat that is very calming, but equally enigmatic and engaging. The horn-like sounds and dizzying cascade of swishy whirs makes the song come alive.

"Song/Day 151" contains a breezy flute, light percussion, and jazzy atmospheric opener with a cheery foundation and soundtrack-esque qualities that seem to float effortlessly on sound waves. The song is more structured than other songs on the album, but it still retains a unique blend of improvisational quirks that make it one of the best songs on the album. Over two-minutes into the song, the jazzy chorus shines on in utter beauty without faltering.

"Song/Day 55" opens with a light, sauntering jazzy side with atmospheric washes and a glowing, smooth keyboard style. The smattering of percussion, driving beat, and atmospheric elements arouse an inventive element that is not to dissimilar than a good Zero 7 instrumental. A few trumpet sounds give the track a sultry side. The horn-driven, electric guitar sounds awaken the track with a little psychedelic panache. Overall, the song is another jazzy masterpiece in-line with Galliano's best works.

"Song/Day 40" begins with a soft, yet majestic arrangement of atmospheric washes, stark piano keys, and neo-classical elements that are thought-provoking and timeless. There is a percussive element about one-minute into the song. The poignant piano sounds and wash of cymbals melds nicely with the mellow foundation. The hand-percussion sounds give the song a more organic feel overall. The sweeping piano sounds and atmospheric washes cement the tune into another solid recording from Galliano.

All in all, Galliano Sommavilla satisfies new age tastes, down-tempo lovers, and instrumental connoisseurs with a knack for neo-classical, alternative jazz, and electronic music. Honestly, Galliano excels with another excellent compilation of songs to come out of the 2013 to 2014 project. Collect all the recordings by one of the most talented musicians in the down-tempo and electronic genres. Review by Matthew Forss

Monday, August 8, 2016

Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2016

The 2016 Edmonton Folk Music Festival happened August 4-7 and I was there to take in the sights and sounds. I was thrilled to see a few of my favourite acts this year, Like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dar Williams, Calexico, and LP. Here is my write up at DigitalJournal.com.

Mary Chapin Carpenter