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UMA/Altered States: Subtitled ‘music for the journey within', the piano/keyboard renaissance woman serves up classical feeling new age that serves the subtitle well. Gentle, atmospheric sounds you won't hear in the background at half time on the football report, this new age pro keeps true to her roots and serves up the kind of sonic massage girl friends everywhere are always looking for. Check it out.

TIMOTHY WENZEL/Distant Horseman: My goodness, we've started out own cult here. For years, we've had a go to phrase that this is something or on Mars; this is something for on the moon. Here we have a impressionistic, instrumental set by a piano/keyboard ace whose cover is a cowboy on the moon. Now that's a distant horseman! Did we prompt this? An impressionistic, instrumental album about the mysteries and depth of the universe? And it isn't pointless noodling? NO! this is a smart set that may or may not take you through the cosmos but there's nary a space cliché anywhere on it. Wisely leaving the planets to Holst, Wenzel goes the distance and doesn't burn up on re-entry. A delightfully breath taking composed new age work throughout.

JANI LANE/Catch a Falling Star: If you've got your hair band nostalgia on, here's a collection that pays tribute to the non Warrant side of Jani Lane and the participants sound like the era never ended. With a bunch of original band mates on board, the guest vocalists on Lane covers from side projects hit's the pop nail on the head and is sure to bring back a lot of memories for former little girls that still understand.

KEVIN KASTNING/Skyfields: Feeling in an anti-social mood, Kastning ditches the duo format this time around since he figures he has more than enough strings on his variously strung guitars to keep him company. Forgoing pyrotechnics, this is Kastning's personal album loaded with solo, impressionistic playing that's as heavy on the white space as it is on the vibrations. Very much a Sunday recital kind of set, Kastning continues to amaze anytime he picks up one of his custom made axes. Well done but left of center.

GUY BUTTERY: The magic of crowd funding hit's the bulls eye here as this South African keeps it acoustic, keeps it indigenous, but mashes up anything he damn well pleases. The kind of stuff that hippie labels used to excel at releasing, this world beat fusion set keeps it lively as it giddily veers from mainstream to psychedelic. A wild ride that's a tonic for anyone on the prowl for something out of the ordinary that isn't pots and pans music, this is the kind of rare treat that you can only describe as a gasser. Hot stuff.

RENATO BRAZ/Saudade: A decade in the making, you can definitely call this a Paul Winter labor of love. Brought about meeting a singer that took him back to the reason for his first falling in love with Brazilian sounds, Winter rounded up his posse to provide the proper setting for this fine vocalist that feels what he sings and packs every syllable with emotion. Certainly one of those records that was made because it had to be made, this is a look at the Brazil we all know and love, but this look is taken after hours. Killer stuff that there's nothing sad about.

SHUNZO OHNO/ReNew: Free jazz as filtered through smooth jazz, trumpeter Ohno leads his crew of first call jazzbos through a marvelous session that opens the ears and really let's you feel the emotions that gave rise to several of the compositions. Smart, modern jazz, this is a solid date the slightly adventurous listener will embrace mightily.

REAL VOCAL STRING QUARTET/Slacker Ridge: When young whippersnappers get their pomo old timey on, something magically happens when it's really done right like it is here. A genre bending deep Americana roots crew, they sound like they just strolled out of Appalachia but they don't worry about staying true to Ola Belle Reed or Etta Baker. It doesn't get more back porch, down home than this as they hit the mark in the truest sense possible. Hot stuff.

ROSU LUP/Is Anything Real: There's been a rise of this underground progressive folk thing bubbling for a while and this crew feels like they came along at just the right point in the genre's rise to benefit from what's come before. With an engaging sound that grabs you because it's relatable but different, we can live with where the new generation of indie artists are taking the sound. Solid stuff that works in ways you can't put your finger on, it doesn't pay to try and dissect the magic when you can just sit back and enjoy. An impressive debut.

WILDER ADKINS/Hope & Sorrow: The kind of twee semi folk singer sensitive girls tend to like, Wilder puts a lot of twists and turns into his work surprising you with a reference or a mood just when you think you have him pegged.

Volume 39/Number 128
March 8, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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