This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 10/03
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Years ago, a guide to living more consciously and fully engaged entitled "The Whole Earth Catalogue" was published. Every so often it would be updated and printed again. It may still be an on-going publication.
If not, one could substitute this Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert release as both guide and inspiration on which to base life choices and actions. Long-time friends, Paul and Gilbert, in their first full-length collaboration, have collected exemplary songs from other singer-songwriters, added a few of their own, and produced a predominately optimistic compendium of prescriptions for living a full, thoughtful and satisfying life.
Mark Erelli's "The Only Way," opens the release. Containing a 9/11 reference and subtext, Paul, in lead vocals, sings of living life fully, aware and all out--giving, loving and believing. Also employing the 9/11 barbarity is "Citizen Of The World," co-written by Paul and Gilbert. A riff on the 'we are the world' concept, this cut advocates looking beyond one's self, community, country towards a 'larger picture' vision as the beginning in resolving humanity's woes.
Exploring the concept of and boundaries of self is the Lucinda Williams penned "Side Of The Road." Susan Werner's delicate "May I Suggest" details that the realm of marvelous possibilities, existing and available to each individual, are too often overlooked until it is too late.
The under-exposed songwriting talent of Jeff Black is exquisitely presented in "What Do I Want What Do I Need." The song's lyrics testify to the conundrum of the song title.
Probably the most controversial offering is the late Dave Carter's lovely "Gentle Arms Of Eden." Controversial because Gilbert dramatically slows the tempo from the Carter version, truly making it his own. With Gilbert's elegant vocals, electric guitar sounding more like a dobro, plus soft drums, the cut becomes more of a spiritual prayer--a completely different song.
The Woody Guthrie/Slaid Cleaves collaboration, the radical "This Morning I Am Born Again" rejects the concept of heaven as an after-life location for a that-time-is-now sense.
Gilbert's "Alone Down Here' presents mankind's nefarious behavior and actions in a context of hoping that we aren't simply by ourselves and that such evil doings shall be accountable somehow, somewhere.
Let's simply call this melodic CD a thinking and feeling person's grist for the mill. Maybe Paul's (and Gilbert's) epistle to the world.
Paul, on guitar, keyboards, vocals and harmony vocals and Gilbert on guitar, tambourine, vocals and harmony vocals, are backed by Tom West on Hammond organ and piano; Lorne Entress on drums; Richard Gates on bass; Duke Levine on electric guitar, Lap Steel guitar, mandola and mandolin; Jake Armerding on fiddle and mandolin; Tom Eaton on shaker and chimes and Don Conoscenti on banjo.
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