The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: contemporary music

Kala Farnham, Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart

by on Sep.02, 2014, under Music

Kala Farnham sets the tone of her first full-length studio album with its opening track Naked Honest.

A rolling piano figure opens up into her familiar classically-tinged playing that underpins an arresting melody. It’s all propelled by Farnham’s impassioned and proficient voice that carries through to a soaring chorus.

The tune is one Farnham released on a live EP from 2009 but this arrangement is fleshed out with a small but full-sounding ensemble as opposed to a solo outing. The track as well as all of the album’s tracks are treated this way and they all benefit from what is really a new production approach from the Connecticut singer-songwriter. The arrangement even includes some tasty guitar playing leading into the bridge, somewhat of a departure compared with her previous recordings.

The group includes: Duke Levine (guitar/mandola);  Daisy Castro (fiddle/cello), Richard Gates (bass), and Marty Wirt (percussion/drums).

Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart is filled with new and older inspiring compositions by Farnham like that opening track. One of the most ambitious Niantic Bay has an almost epic feel to it similar to some of her past songs, but again is fully developed with background vocals, creative percussion and a wonderful sense of dynamics that runs throughout.

Her voice so easily transitions from full-bodied to delicate falsetto with a sparkling top end on this tune and others such as the staccato-driven, pop-oriented title track.

Farnham treads much new ground here in her approach even to her older tunes. Songbird, which first appeared on the Naked Honest Live EP has a contemporary jazz-waltz feel, straight from the ’60s. The jaunty Singin’ Along’s (Sparrow’s Song) dance hall feel in 2/4 further shows off Farnham’s versatility. Complemented by fiddle, the track illustrates a lighter and refreshing side to her compositions.

But one of the most surprising and pleasing tracks is her take on the classic traditional song House Of The Rising Son, the only cover on the album. She shows she’s fully capable of interpreting the blues though her own song styling and presents one of the most impressive recent versions of this well-worn staple that came to the public’s attention back in the early ’60s via Dylan and the powerhouse arrangement of The Animals.

The track also shows off Farnham’s voice perhaps better than any other with her soaring interpretation of the familiar lyrics. Never harsh always heartfelt, smooth and riding on top of the melody Farnham’s vocals throughout the album are in many ways the main attraction, holding the listener fixed by the music and lyrical content.

All her songs are infused with poignant and penetrating word play. The rushing Pencil and Ink weaves a story of love and love lost through the writing of a song. All this adorning a beautifully conceived arrangement with perfectly complementing drums and violin.
The spiritually inflected Anam Caram and Maitri, a song of unconditional friendship and love, speak to the center of the album’s focus while bringing the work to its satisfying conclusion. Both are arranged in 3/4 and carry an enlightened perspective through Farnham’s singular talents as singer and piano player.

Other surprises and delights within range from the infectious chorus of By Your Side to Mon Cher and La Coupe’s French-English lyrical content to the powerful and impetuous Ruthless, again featuring guitar.

In all, a complete and accomplished first full-album for Farnham that shows so many more sides to her talents than previous live and EP collections. She has the songs, she has the voice and she has a perfectly conceived piano approach that helps meld all the elements of her talents together into style and substance truly her own.

Kala Farnham’s web site:

Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart at CD Baby:

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Gil Scott-Heron’s poetry resonates with relevancy

by on Mar.27, 2010, under Music

Sometimes gems are found in the most unusual places. Well, the public library isn’t that unusual, particularly our town library, which has a nice collection of CDs.

Gil Scott-Heron I'm New HereBut there are rarely recently released albums. So when I found the new Gil Scott-Heron title I’m New Here, his first in 13 years, I was surprised and delighted.

I’ve always been a fan on Heron’s and his unusual and effective mix of R&B, soul, blues, vocals and spoken word that burst on the contemporary music scene in the early 1970s. His poetry, containing a mixture of political awareness, life experience, insight and character, penetrates the listener because of his distinctive voice with its tortured, raspy world-worn quality. There is no denying, his art definitely has been a major influence and precursor to today’s rap and hip-hop artists.

The album has a string of narrations, many interludes between tracks, that help tie this compact 28 minutes together for an overpowering listening experience. Heron advises on the back of the album to stop, sit down and listen to this music, not on a portable player, in the car or through any of the many electronic devices available today. Listen to it like his generation listened in a room through a genuine music system without distractions. You won’t be disappointed if you do. When you’re finished, share it with someone and do it all over again.

The opening narration, On Coming From A Broken Home (Part 1), sets the scene of Heron’s upbringing in the South with his grandmother, whom he dearly loved, in a house devoid of men and how he was “full grown before he knew he came from a broken home.” It easily segues into a most interesting interpretation of Robert Johnson’s Me And The Devil, with a hypnotic, trip-hop rhythm track that works so well, at once establishing Heron’s relevancy today and updating his sound. And oh that voice, unlike any other in the music world. (continue reading…)

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