Music Review: Kat Maslich-Bode – The Road of 6

Hey all…

Sometime in the mid-2000s I came across a group known as Eastmountainsouth – a folk/rock duo composed of Kat Maslich (now Kat Maslich-Bode) and Peter Bradley Adams. Their self-titled album “Eastmountainsouth” was the only album the duo produced, though it had a few songs used in film and television soundtracks. And the song “Hard Times” has haunted a corner of my mind ever since.

In this time of job and economy woes, the lyrics of “Hard Times” still plead for tough times to “come again no more.” “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears / while we all sup sorrow with the poor / there’s a song that will linger forever in our ears / oh, hard times come again no more.” With its Americana/folk roots, the acoustic guitar and duet between Kat and Peter has just the right balance of gravitas and hope.

So when I heard that Kat was releasing her first solo album since the duo split in 2004, I wanted to give it a listen. The album title – The Road of 6 – comes from the number of years it’s taken to complete it as a labor of love and friendship. She says “I am truly blessed to have so many amazing friends, musicians, and singers join me on the record.”

Though a short album, coming in at about 25 minutes and 6 tracks, it features some interesting choices, such as a cover of Tim Easton‘s “JPMFYF” – a controversial song about the state of Christianity today. And I have to admit the album came as a bit of a surprise to me. Whereas Eastmountainsouth had a good mix of upbeat and ballad tunes, The Road of 6 comes across as a bit depressing.

Kat wrote “March” for her husband on their wedding day, and uses the heartbeat of their daughter (then in-utero) to open and close the song. With guest vocals by Mary Chapin Carpenter, the song definitely comes across as a slow love song that would work well as a wedding march – sharing the joy one partner shares with another when you’re in a marriage that works.

“Sky Falls” features Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) and Neilson Hubbard on background vocals. The lyrics are about trying to be someone you’re not and watching as the “Sky Falls” around you as a result. Of all the songs on the album, this is one of my favorites. I think coming to terms with your true self and what you need to do is one of the hardest things a person has to do in life. And the steady, but not too-slow beat keeps the song chugging along behind Kat’s soaring vocals.

And “Poor Old Town” is my other favorite, though it focuses on getting out of a small town that’s fading. Background vocals are sung by Jim Lauderdale, a Bluegrass/country artist who’s been performing since the early ’90s and has written songs for George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless, and others. I love his expressive country voice behind Kat’s – it adds a whole other dimension to the song. Like with “Sky Falls,” this one deals with leaving behind everything you’ve known to start over and the melancholy of the new life and the life left behind.

Overall, I thought The Road of 6 was a strange mix of songs – from the personal (“March”) to the controversial (“JPMFYF”) to those about the human condition (“Sky Falls” and “Poor Old Town”). The arrangements were good, but the balance of the album seemed to be falling into a very sad place. I don’t mind sad songs, but there has to be more hope and energy for an album to be truly great.

The Road of 6 from Kat Maslich-Bode is available now and she’ll be touring and working on her full-length follow-up album throughout the next year. Fans of Eastmountainsouth will want to give her a listen and I hope that her next album can strike a better balance. Check out her webiste at KatMaslichBode.com for more details about the album and her tour schedule!

This article first appeared on BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Here are a couple of albums to check out:

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Music Review: Edie Carey – Bring the Sea

Hi!

Raised on folk music in a house of musicians, I often wonder what my life would be like without that background. Peter, Paul, and Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas, and the Moody Blues are among those I can recall from my early days. All put an emphasis on storytelling, melody, and harmony.

Through high school, college, and beyond, I have found other artists who emphasize the same qualities. Singer/songwriters like Shawn Colvin, David Wilcox, the Indigo Girls, Paula Cole, Sarah McLachlan, Michael Hedges, and Brandi Carlile have been added to my CD collection over the years, and I continue to find more and more artists with folk, Americana, or even Bluegrass influences. Finding a new artist adds yet more fuel to the fire for the soundtrack in my head…

So let me now add Edie Carey to the list. Her soulful voice and storytelling style instantly made me think of Shawn Colvin, so she fits right in. She’s been performing on stages in the US & Canada and as far away as the UK since 1998. How I’ve managed to miss her previous six albums in the last 12 years is beyond me, but I’m not missing her seventh – Bring the Sea.

Beyond the fact that Bring the Sea features Edie’s amazingly expressive voice, the album also has a few other voices and performances you might recognize. Shawn Mullins, Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket), multi-instrumentalist Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls), and violinist Eyvind Kang (Bill Frisell, Laurie Anderson). The album, produced by Evan Brubaker, was funded entirely by her fans, which is an incredible feat. But since they already knew her, they probably just knew they wanted to hear more of Edie’s music.

Edie’s songs seem to be about her relationships and experiences. Love and loss echo through all our lives and she has a gift like all great storytellers.

My favorite is “On & On” with it’s light guitar picking, about a baby and wishes all parents and good souls have for youngsters… And for some reason, she had to let the baby go… “I know you’re not really mine; you were my child; you were my baby; you were mine for a time… No, I’m not crying ; Now you’re flying, flying…” Most of us have been touched by a child at some time in our lives, whether our own or not. And it reminds us that life goes on and on…

“Waiting” is another favorite, featuring backing vocals from Glen Phillips. Singing of the love we spend our lives looking for – “but I still believe, and you’re my answer why; my heart was tired, a faded paper valentine; now my heart’s a child, racing crazy every time.” We’re all waiting… Accompanied by Jonathan Kingham on piano and Eyvind Kang on viola, the layers tugged at my emotions and that longing.

The album ends “With You Now” reminds me of my own relationship with my wife – a passionate, spontaneous woman. I’m the reasonable, calm one here. And yet the relationship works. “You, the quiet one – let’s talk until we’re done – when the red sun goes black…” and “You brought the mountains, I’ll bring the sea” – but “I am with you now…” Accompanied again by Kang on viola, there’s just enough strings, guitar and piano to keep the melody rising and falling like waves…

Edie will be another one for me to watch in the years to come, and I may have to find a few of her previous albums. Be sure to check out Bring the Sea and take a look at Edie’s website for tour dates and other info!

–Fitz

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Music Review: Mayfly EP by Jason Karaban

Hi all!

Though I’d not heard of Jason Karaban before, the three songs on Mayfly resonated with me. Inspired by images of the Civil War, these are haunting, sad songs tinged with regret and loss stripped down to a bare few instruments and melodies.

Karaban was accompanied by Chris Joyner on piano (“No Casualties”) and Lucy Schwartz on backing vocals (“Sullivan Ballou” and “No Casualties”), but “A Far Better Place” is Karaban going solo. But Karaban seems to surround himself with diverse talent frequently. Whether with Joyner or Schwartz, Karaban’s voice has a soft, almost ethereal quality that lends credence to the heady topics of these songs.

This is Karaban’s fourth release, starting with Doomed to Make Choices in 2005, Leftovers in 2006, and then Sobriety Kills in early 2009. On his albums he’s worked with a veritable “who’s who” of guest musicians such as Joyner and Schwartz. Guests have included Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), David Immerglück (Counting Crows), Ani DiFranco, Ivan Neville (Rolling Stones, Neville Brothers), Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), and many more.

The power of the simple songs of Mayfly is palpable not only in the melodies and performances, but the lyrics. It’s hard to argue with “The seeds of old were strewn across the field and blew away” in “Sullivan Ballou”. The images evoked are those of the bloody remains of battles fought those many years ago. It’s rare to find an artist willing to take a chance on such a sad topic.

It continues with “No Casualties” and Joyner’s stripped down piano playing and someone playing a soft trumpet. Again, not cheerful lyrics, but evocative ones speaking of having no casualties during a retreat, and later losing people as “they drop like flies” during a battle. War is hell and the comeraderie between soldiers fighting on the front lines wavers between cheer and despair from one encounter to the next.

And finally in “A Far Better Place” you hear in the background the echoes of men in war as once again, the despair is tinged with cheer of fallen brothers. The fallen head off to a far better place after fighting – “no disgrace from the shame we do” – again, calling back to the horrific violence of the Civil War where brother fought brother and horrible acts done in the name if one cause or another.

I believe Mayfly is meant to make us consider the costs of war, whether today or yesterday. But beyond that, it’s significant to find an artist expressing his visions and challenge our preconceptions of the purpose of music. In this case, Karaban shows a contemplative, almost cathartic understanding of a complex topic.

If you’re interested in challenging yourself emotionally through music, be sure to check out Mayfly. I know his songs will haunt me for a while.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out Mayfly and some of Jason Karaban’s other CDs, including Sobriety Kills, Doomed to Make Choices, and Leftovers at Amazon.

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