Lenny Smith: Who Was And Is And Is To Come
?Who Was And Is And Is To Come?, the first installment of a new two-record set from veteran songwriter Lenny Smith, is folk music through and through. It is the good story told about people and their Maker, about earth and heavens, about dirt and sky and the horizon where they embrace.
Wovenhand: The Laughing Stalk
?The Laughing Stalk’ mines the bottomless chasm of a desperate man at the mercy of an inscrutable God. The rhythms are insistent, the guitars unyielding, and melodies are potent and unrestrained. David Eugene Edwards is as much a force of nature as ever, pulling the entire band forward with the strength of his voice, as if it had its own gravitational field. One can’t quite grab ahold of a singular style—each note is informed by the royal heritages and traditions of punk, of country, of rock & roll, industrial, and Native American music. But newer and unfamiliar elements are percolating and rising to the surface; there is rest, there’s hope, even joy. The Impenetrable becomes penetrable, and the inscrutable countenance of theOther becomes recognizable as an attentive look of compassion and tenderness. An insistent rhythm section that once heralded danger now provides the bedrock for dances of celebration, and turns of light shift minor melodies to major. Perhaps Wovenhand’s finest record to date, ?The Laughing Stalk’ is the testament of a restless artist seeking to document his findings in a wild, untamed, and impossibly beautiful land.
Glen Galaxy: Thankyou
"I put this album up there with Ted Sandquist's "Courts Of The Kings," Phil Driscoll's "I Exalt Thee," and Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." It makes me remember Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotton. If you like Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" and Danielson's "Ships" and Sufjan's "Seven Swans" and, maybe, "Deep Calls To Deep," you'll love "Thankyou." I wish I could just send one to everyone at my own expense. Then you'd know exactly what I am trying to say. In fact, maybe I will. ?" ? Lenny Smith
Danielson: Best of Gloucester County
The whole represents a new and welcome chapter in the Danielson oeuvre--a startlingly effective new band, a new thematic field (the locally-grown opus), produced with more sonic ambition than any recent Danielson effort, but without sacrificing the brave interior journey that we have come to expect from Daniel Christopher Smith: the world is complex, slightly dangerous, full of temptations, but there is still grace, beauty, meaning, and the music that is required to suggest all this is anything but easy, but that doesn't mean it is not rewarding, beautiful, funny, sad, and generous.
Ben + Vesper: HONORS
HONORS reveals a more confident and adventurous Ben + Vesper, who have surrounded themselves with good friends who happen to be perfectly suited to translate Ben + Vesper's songs into a pleasing and universal vernacular. Here is an album that is full of dance party music for the unsung heroes of the world. Here is an album that is brimming over with eager anticipation from one track to the next. Impeccably recorded by Brian McTear, Amy Morrisey and Daniel Smith in a total of five days, HONORS is one of those albums that marks a moment in time, a moment worth recording and listening to and talking about for years to come. Four albums in four years on Sounds Familyre, and Ben + Vesper have gone and done it. They have graduated the school of rock, with HONORS.
I Was A King: Old Friends
Old Friends is a record of excitement, managing a tension between control and chaos, harmony and discord, old and new; a tension that is always teetering, but never stumbling. There is also a comfortableness to the music--the same kind of comfort you feel when you're with people you've known for a very long time; the comfort to risk, to stretch, to laugh. Old Friends is very special music. It is music not unlike the phenomenon of friendship itself: a sublime oddity.
Ortolan: Time On A String
“Luxuriating within the lustrous musical harbor of the Ortolan sisterhood is the great strength of Stephanie Cottingham's lyrics. She talks of space and place, street corners, trees, and “sitting here reading this all on the ground.” We are able to explore these rooms with her, dream alongside her, join her in the desire to “Be So Bold” and “wish I could live?to the fullest”. We know with her that “I was meant for something more”. We face “Sticky Situations” in the midst of which we struggle to “make things better” and believe the best about people and ourselves. Daniel Smith's fine production has framed all this in such a way that there is little to hinder our entrance.
Music like this is rare. It addresses us kindly, directly, without pretense or irony. It is not cool or hip or self-contained. It is unabashedly vulnerable, open to encounter. It's not often anymore that you hear the music of young people. Not just young people, but anyone who is still engaged in becoming who they are. Ortolan includes us in the family, encouraging us to grow along with them. As we walk from room to room, past painting after painting, here is something that invites us to pause, enter in, and to become a kindred participant in its quest.”
-Dan Zimmerman, 2009
Ben + Vesper: LuvInIdleness
This record began in Ben + Vesper’s kitchen so many years ago over three bowls of vegetarian chili, a pan of cornbread, filtered water, and an agreeable dinner guest by the name of Sufjan Stevens. The occasion was an invitation to play at a house-concert series that Ben + Vesper hosted in their living room (which resulted in Sufjan’s first live show ever). This unlikely start to Sufjan’s performing career also resulted in an ongoing friendship and musical dialogue that has recently inspired Ben + Vesper to dish out another dollop of ambrosial pop songs titled LuvInIdleness. Here is the new EP that finally brought the dinner party full circle as Sufjan, in turn, invited the Jersey-based couple across state lines, harrowing train connections and two great rivers to record 16 minutes of listening glee.
If you don’t wish to try all this, then put on the CD, and you will be pleased to hear a heavy dose of Sufjan’s bright and varied arrangements underpinning each track, and Ben’s brother Josh plucking and bowing that unmistakably gorgeous upright bass. One of the greatest achievements of LuvInIdleness is the room provided for Vesper’s voice to really shine. On every song, Vesper can be heard striding out from the shadows of a backing vocalist to command each melodic turn with her distinctive range. This gives greater weight to Ben’s understated baritone as the two voices form a pleasing union throughout the course of the album.
LuvInIdleness is not only a really satisfying listen, but also a celebration of enduring friendship.
Danielson: Moment Soakers
“Moment Soakers” is everything we’ve come to expect from Danielson, the musical articulation of a singularly poetic and ecstatic vision; music that simultaneously welcomes and surprises, moving both body and soul. Seven-inch vinyl was deemed the perfect format for this recording, and with its complimentary themes of flying and floating, ABBA’s “Eagle” (a long-time favorite of Smith’s) was quickly decided on as the perfect cover for the B-side.
Bifrost Arts: Salvation Is Created (A Christmas Album from Bifrost Arts)
From producers Isaac Wardell and Mason Neely, joined by a remarkable collection of artists (including Diane Birch, Derek Webb (Caedmon's Call), Matt Bauer, Aimee Wilson, Ben + Vesper, Elin K. Smith, and Sarah Fullen), ?Salvation Is Created? is exceptional in its humble elegance and haunting beauty. Some of the album?s voices are coarse and fragile, some are soaring and victorious, some are perfectly bittersweet, and all are pulled together by a mesmerizing stylistic alchemy created when grand orchestral arrangements meet slow-burn R&B bass and guitar, and are joined by the winsome tinkling of the celeste, the woodsy low of bassoon, and intimate folk whisperings, to present the Christmas drama through carols both familiar and forgotten. The idea of faith abandons the realm of the Hallmark card and enters the real world,?God with us? comes with sobriety, but with joy that penetrates to the bone.
Bifrost Arts: 'Come O Spirit!' Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs Volume 1
“For more than 30 years, pop music has suffered from a God complex—attaching a scarlet letter to artists who include the religious experience in their songs.
But a new generation of musicians from across the spiritual spectrum is emerging, discarding the trappings of the Christian-culture industry to reintroduce the transcendence, beauty and historical gravity of western scared music to the places where it belongs: dinner parties, road trips and back porches.
Come O Spirit brings together artists like Dave Bazan, Damien Jurado, Rosie Thomas, Dennison Witmer, The Welcome Wagon (featuring Sufjan Stevens) and Leigh Nash to revive 400 years of long-forgotten melodies and liturgical music. The brainchild of producers Isaac Wardell and Mason Neely, Come O Spirit interprets hymnody through lush, cinematic arrangements and a drop of Southern gothic mystique. It’s like a prayer.
Released Sept. 8, together with the Smith family and Great Comfort Records.”