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   Thursday, June 27, 2002  
'Poet, humanist, inventor, musician, [he] exceeds the sum of his parts, still searching within and without to make albums that break new ground.' Extracted from a woefully inadequate 8,000-word feature in last week's Billboard, you've surely guessed already - of course, it's James Taylor! The exact opposite of a hard-hitting critique, the article anticipates the August release of the great man's 18th (or thereabouts) album, October Road, which reallyrather somehow feels will be as 'ground-breaking' as all the others (ie sound remarkably, comfortably familiar).

Billboard: What was the thinking behind calling the album October Road?
JT: I like the way it rolls off the tongue..

Still brimming over with inspiration after all these years, Taylor continues to push his personal boundaries:

JT: This record has a high amount of my whistling.
Billboard: Really good whistling, in fact.
JT: I have a brother who whistles beautifully, Hughie; he's a world-class whistler. My father whistled a lot, too. But I think it comes mostly from my grandmother, Angelique Woodard--she was a great whistler.

Excellent stuff! Do you, like reallyrather, sometimes quietly crave that James Taylor vibe but don't really like to talk about it? Want something similar but a bit less, how shall we say, 'Martha Stewart'? You need Denison Witmer. More precisely, you need his albums, Safe away from 2000 and last year's follow-up Of joy and sorrow. Soothing, honest folk-pop, it's pretty much all beautiful stuff. The second album gets closest to the JT thing, fleshing out the pretty acoustic sound of his debut with a full band sound on songs like Rock Run, Forgiven and You and me. It's the (very) subtle traces of indie/emo that take this music out of the Seventies and into the here & now. The chord change in the stripped-down Reaching, simple strumming with Witmer's gorgeous multitracked harmonies; the wistful reflections on The 80s, "when we were smaller". The least JT moment is Yesterday & tomorrow where the pace remains relaxed but the amp is cranked up (like a distinctly Californian Jesus & Mary Chain, maybe). If anything, the songs on Safe away are actually stronger - Over my head, Miles, This and that, I would call you now all shine, Witmer's attractive voice and electric/acoustic guitar self-accompaniment (with deft organ, bass assists) putting him ahead of the likes of Teddy Thompson, Josh Ritter, etc. Currently doing some dates with Rosie Thomas, Witmer's third release Philadelphia songs is due September 24. Recommended.

At Arnold's gig at LA's Knitting Factory next month there'll be support from none other than the Gigolo Aunts. More dates:
July 25 San Francisco (Pop Scene)
July 28 Anaheim (Chain Reaction)

Some bands just never let you down, whatever the circumstances. Reduced to a (power) trio and in front of a sparse 'crowd', the great Myracle Brah dished out a relentless volley of three-minute retro-pop gems at the Barfly last night. Even tho' reallyrather has the albums to prove it, the question 'Can these all be originals?' still hovers as (some kinda genius) Andy Bopp, Paul Krysiak and Joe Parsons gel, particularly on a stretch including She's so young, Message 78 and Albert S Hand. Having run out of 'trio' material the band encored with The Proclaimers' 500 miles, wtih drummer Parsons on lead Scottish accent. A hoot(s'mon)...

Don't say you weren't told Dept.
From the London Evening Standard's Coldplay review (June 24): 'Before we go any further, a far-too-brief mention for The Polyphonic Spree who performed a dazzling free concert ... Including a scissor-kicking French horn player, they played an incredibly uplifting set of frazzled gospel rock.'
Amen to that...
   posted by SMc at 11:39 AM |