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MARK CUTLER – Dreamland
Singer/songwriter Mark Cutler is in Rhode Island’s Men of Great Courage and in this side project, he is more coffeehouse then nightclub. This side of Cutler is more folk and more introspective, but the passion still prevails in every song. “Circle to a Square,” a slow Americana ballad, “I’ll Play for You,” “Soul Flame,” and the title tune, “Dreamland” with a nice harp, are all very personal confessions of a very talented artist to his audience; and his gentle voice is well suited for this intimacy. There is even some banjo on this Americana flavored CD. Mark Cutler delivers some nice acoustic ballads. This is a good listen. (A.J. Wachtel)
DAN BAKER – Pistol In My Pocket
Got misery? Dan Baker does, in spades. His latest CD speaks of lost love, mournfulness, and general-type unhappiness. I mean, when an album contains tracks titled “She’s Not Gonna Call” and “Threw Me Down a Well” you’re kind of clued in early this is not going to be a compilation of cheerful, danceable ditties, and this isn’t.
Recorded live in the vast, echoing space of an empty Masonic temple, Baker and band have at it, down, dirty… and good. The arrangements are lean and spare, with sometimes-skeletal acoustic guitar carrying the load alone. For others, his band adds the right shades of angst. Dan’s voice yowls and growls in a manner that echoes early Neil Young, but like Neil’s, it’s a voice that delivers pain perfectly. (Tim O’Brien)
ALLYSEN CALLERY – Mumblin’ Sue
While the hypnotic intertwining of Callery’s fancy finger-picking lulls you into a meditative state, it’s her petal-soft lilt that really does a number on your heart-strings, plucking them with the same fervor as she does her guitar. The music is stoic yet still yearningly bitter-sweet. The lyrics, poetic and steeped in country wisdom, relate stories of heartache seen through sadder-but-wiser eyes. The power isn’t only in the words themselves, but in they way they’re sung—in a melancholy, reverberating sean-nós style. Something tells me she could be singing in Swahili or Cantonese and anyone with ears would still have some idea of what she was singing about. (Will Barry)
HAUNT THE HOUSE – Rural Introspection Study Group
Will Houlihan’s solo foray is a modest collection of guitar ballads and blues. There’s no gainsaying his personal approach to the material, of which the best of show is the bluesy “Vampyre,” along with the heartfelt “Eden.” (Francis DiMenno)