This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 1/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Bartley's music is an intriguing combination of different rhythms, sounds and styles, and mixes well with the lyrics he offers as observations of a man who has endured and learned from the ebbs and flows of life. His seasoned, smoky voice matches well with the maturity of his writing, carrying the cachet of someone who has some miles behind him and has become wiser from his experiences.
The best cut is "Noah's Ark," a cleverly written parable describing the yin and yang of life. There may be no fixed guides to life but what is needed, not necessarily heeded--everything and its opposite--is present, according to Bartley. Adding smooth touches to this cut are Matt Jenson on organ and Bartley on harmonica.
The image-laden and poetic "Natural Law" is a continuance of this theme. Again with Jenson on organ and also featuring an explosion of electric guitar mid-way through the song, Bartley renews his meditation on opposites in this world. As he eloquently describes the smiliarities of existence that transcend all cultures, nationalities and races, he notes what we all ultimately face is:
"Cut by Wire," co-written with John Gorka, must have originated during Gorka's "dark period". Beautifully written and delivered, it is a poignant and elegantly descriptive look back at a failed relationship.
Being laid off six months short of a 30-year pension is the premise of "The Wealthiest of Men." The protagonist, fortifying himself in a bar before he goes home to tell his wife, angrily asks "...show me who did this to me, point out who they are...". Reflective of the corporate downsizings occurring in this country (and elsewhere) as part of the global economy, too often there is no specific antagonist. Is it the shareholders pressuring for greater profits? Is it the Board of Directors with no sense or concern about the damages to individuals and communities caused by such actions? Is it the populace in foreign countries employed at one-tenth of the salary cost of workers in this country? Sneering at those in charge, Bartley states, "...if I could sell them greed, I'd be the wealthiest of men".
Antidotally, "Welcome to the Spiral Dance," is an uplifting, catchy tune with a Caribbean-type flavor to it, adding to Bartley's philosophizing. He sings:
Bartley is backed by Ben Wittman on drums; Mike Rivard on upright bass and bass guitar; Seth Connelly on paino, lap steel, electric guitar, madolin and dobro; Billy Novick on soprano sax, pennywhistle and wooden flute; Matt Jenson on Hammond B-3 organ; Matt Leavenworth on fiddle; Ricard Monzon and Earnesto Diaz on percussion; and background vocals contributed by Lisa and Selena Wilson, John Gorka, Jennifer Kimball, Greg Greenway, Jonatha Brooke, Catie Curtis, Les Sampou and John Lincoln Wright.
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