A Review of the Jonathan Byrd & Dromedary CD
"The Sea And The Sky"

"The Sea And The Sky"
by Jonathan Byrd & Dromedary

Copyright 2004

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 8/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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At first, and unusual, because generally it's the lyrics that have the greatest appeal to me, it was the attraction of the sounds produced by the variety instruments, solo and blended, that grabbed my attention on this release. Jonathan Byrd and Dromedary (Rob McMaken and Andrew Reissiger) serve up a most captivating and eclectic musical mix of fiddle, guitar, mandolin and other instrumental background here.

But my usual difficulty in reviewing even the most compelling-sounding of CDs was compounded by finding many of the songs here somewhat perplexing, requiring multiple listenings. This made the review a much more drawn-out process than usual.

What Byrd has created here (they are his compositions) is a human being/nature tableau, conjoining human characters with a great many elements of the natural world--the sea, wind, sun, sky, birds and clouds. A prime example: is the opening cut, "True Companion," where the 'characters' are of human, animal and natural form.

The superb title cut, "The Sea And The Sky," with its engaging, changing rhythms, contains both the visual inventiveness and playfulness so often evoked by the writing of the late Dave Carter. The opening verse:

"The Sea is a lady in love with the Sky
She scallops and spins for his winds rushing by
But the day it is calm and the day it is still
And they dare not to dance of their own free will..."

"The Young Slaver" is the most enjoyable offering here. A blessing of rhythm and melody (so much so that it could stand alone simply as a dance tune), it's a Byrd-written UK traditional maritime-type tune that encompasses a young sailor and his love, although apart, trading conversation surrounding the young man's doings in the nefarious slave trade. Song compilers of this genre will need to turn the page and start an entire new chapter for this one will stay in your head for hours afterwards--and that's a good thing.

Curiously, the following cut, "I've Been Stolen," could be considered a companion piece. It is also a lament about slavery, from the point of view of the enslaved. How Byrd presents the story and plays it out musically makes it also sound, believe it or not, like a gospel waltz.

"I'm So Lost" tells the tale of facing up to the foolish actions that provoked a ruptured relationship. "Little Bird," has a fiddle opening that could come straight out of a George Jones tearjerker. Again qualifying as another companion piece, in this one the main character is frozen in place, seeking guidance and not knowing what step to take next.

Byrd also provides a couple of instrumental cuts that encompass a variety of musical genres and styles.

He closes with "For You," a musical travelogue laden with a sailor's promise to his love of a veritable treasure trove of gifts from the various ports of Barcelona, Marseilles, Naples and Galway upon his return.

Byrd possesses an inviting, enjoyable voice that projects both forcefulness and sensitivity. He enunciates clearly so as to dull any need for lyrics, which aren't included in the liner notes.

Be prepared to play this one numerous times before fully forming a decision about it because it's simultaneous simplicity and complexity may not grab you all at once. But if this happens, like me, expect to be drawn back to it again and again, and thankfully so.

A little history is due on the amalgamation of these artists. Both Byrd and Dromedary members, serendipitously noticed each other while setting up in different sections of a venue and this eventually resulted in all getting together when it came time to produce this CD. Each can deservedly take a bow, as can the other contributors, for this is truly a team effort.

Jonathan Byrd, on vocals, steel string guitar, flamenco guitar and vox, is backed by Rob McMaken on mandolin, Appalachian lap dulcimer, cumbus and vox; Andrew Reissiger on flamenco guitar, charango and electric guitar; Jason Cade on fiddle; Robbie Link on bass and cello; and Rex McGee on fiddle.

Track List:

All songs written by Jonathan Byrd.

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