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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Various Artists

Folk City: The Various Artists Compilation Album

Review by Gary Hill

The first instinct here is to think that this will be a folk music compilation. That’s not really the case. Folk City is something the record label 22 Tango Records started in the hope that it will “encourage a community that aspires to create original music with a deep sensitivity to songwriting and aims to develop an appreciation for original music to a new niche of local music listeners.” This set has that in mind. I should, add, though, that taking the original meaning of folk music – music of the people – this certainly qualifies. Musically there is a fairly wide range here, but it’s all high quality. More often than not it features female vocals, but there are a handful of songs with male singing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Labrats - Until Love Dies

Yes, this opener has some folk music in the mix. Overall, though, it’s more of a slow, bluesy rock sound. It’s got alternative pop in the mix, too. While I love the retro instrumental arrangement, it’s the female vocals that really sell this. Of course, the entire picture, taken as a whole is magic.

Jessica McYorker - Save It for a Sunday
Sections with multiple layers of non-lyrical vocals are a great touch on this. The tune itself seems to combine jazz with old school pop music and rock. This is a catchy number that is even stronger than the opener was. Given the potency of that piece, it says a lot.
Cattski - Sea Hue
The female vocals on this bring a bit of a soulful vibe. The cut combines folk music with modern pop rock into an infectious and compelling song. I love this one. As good as the first two were, this surpasses them by far.
Wonggoys - HD (Alternate Version)
The first song to feature male vocals, this has a great jazz meets soul and R&B vibe to it. The female backing vocals add quite a bit to this. So do the keyboard elements. This is a cool tune that’s a bit of variety. It’s not the best thing here, but the change of pace does a lot for the flow of the set.
Womb - Sleepyhead
We’re back into female vocal territory on this piece. We’re also into something really sublime with this. There is a trippy, dreamy kind of vibe here. The music textures on this are electronic, but also organic. This has an almost urban vibe at times, but it classic rock most of the time. It even leans towards modern progressive rock. If anything, I’d consider this dream pop, perhaps.
Snübear - Crazy Maddy
This is one of the best of the set. It has a real dream pop kind of vibe. It’s also quite related to modern progressive rock. I love this song. This one is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Luxxx - Our Love
Another with male vocals on an album dominated by female singers, this feels like something that would have been quite at home in the 80s. It’s got that great European new wave pop rock sound to it. It’s another great tune with some excellent tones and sounds and some great hooks.
Ella Melendez - Recovered
Folk music and alternative rock mix on this bouncy number. It’s odd that the piece feels so upbeat when the lyrical message in many ways is dark. I suppose there is a message of hope built within that might warrant the happy song structure. Either way, this isn’t one of my favorite songs. It’s okay, but a bit lackluster compared to the rest.
Gabriel Lynch - What Friends Are For
This little number, on other hand, is pretty special. For one thing, it’s one of the few with male vocals, bringing some variety. The music is a combination of old time pop music, folk and jazz. It’s bouncy and entertaining and has a great vocal arrangement. This is just a good time.
The Brewer Boys - Cottonwood
Now, this is folk music. It has a lot of country and soft rock built into it, too. There are links to down-home, back porch blues, too. It’s another fun song and another with male vocals. It’s not one of my favorites, but it’s pretty good.
Shimona Kee - Little Things
Strings add a lot to the arrangement of this piece. It’s definitely another folk song. The vocals (female) early are vulnerable and frail in sound. They get quite powerful later in the piece. This is quite an effective song.
Martina San Diego - Someday
This is a bouncy, rather stripped back song at the start. The bass really drives it, essentially the only musical accompaniment on the early sections. Or at least it’s a bass pattern on a guitar. It could be strictly guitar. It work out to a more full arrangement (complete with horns) later, though. It’s a fun song, really.
Mary Anchit - The Race
Piano starts this. The vocals come in over the top of that and hold the first parts of the song. It gets a rhythm section into the mix after a time, but overall it’s still a ballad. While the vocals don’t make me think of Adele (at least not completely), it really feels like the kind of thing she would do. It’s a pretty tune, but perhaps a bit understated for a closing song.
 
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