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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Society of Broken Souls

Midnight and the Pale

Review by Gary Hill

There is a big roots music movement under way. This fits well into that concept. This is a duo of Dennis Jones and Lauryn Shapter. The fact that they have both male and female vocals allows for some real variety as they almost equally split up the vocal duties. Mind you, Shapter sings one more song than Jones does. They alternate singing every other song throughout the set, other than at one point where Shapter sings two in a row. The music here is folk based with a lot of country and other element at play. This is entertaining and diverse.

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Track by Track Review
Ghosts of Kansas
Folk music merges with country on this tune. The organ lends a retro element to the piece, but the overall vibe is fitting with a bygone era anyway. There is some tasty electric guitar work at times on this cut. It does get a minor parental advisory on the lyrics.
Starflower Blues
I love the melodic guitar work on this song. There is some intricate picked guitar running in the background and electric that dances across in the foreground. While the opener featured James' vocals, this one is built around Shapter's. This is a dramatic and particularly strong piece that's among the best here. It's mostly folk rock in style.
A Hundred Miles
I love the guitar work on this cut. Jones' vocals make me think of John Flynn a bit here. The folk stylings on this land in the dramatic serious variety. There is an instrumental interplay movement later in the piece that is both extended and quite strong.
With a healthy helping of piano in the mix, this works out into a mode that's perhaps more based in a gospel approach. It's a ballad that is still folk music based. This earns another parental advisory. It has some cool electric guitar work later in the piece. The cut is an extended one and grows into some potent folk rock.
A mellower number, this breaks the tradition of alternating lead vocals song to song, Shapter sang the last one, and also does this number. This is intricate, and delicate. Musically this is pretty, but it's ironic in that the lyrics discuss some pretty ugly things in the world. This also gets another parental advisory.
April's Moon
I love the intriguing instrumental section that opens this. It has an almost folk prog vibe to it. The cut shifts outward from there to a cool Americana based arrangement. Jones is back handling the vocals here. The arrangement is lush and powerful. I am a big fan of the short bass solo section later in the track.
Lay to Rest the Ghost
I dig the folk music vibe on this cut. It has a very classic texture. When it gets more energy and intensity after the first verse it turns more toward country. The clean guitar soloing on this thing is so tasty.
Broken Bouquet
A slower, mellow cut, the country elements have really come home to roost here. The arrangement is quite stripped down for the first vocal movement, but a violin (or should I say "fiddle") rises up after that. Even when the vocals return, there are additional instrumental layers in place, including that fiddle. Eventually the arrangement gets fairly lush, but the basic musical concept remains intact.
Piano drives the first part of this cut, but the violin and acoustic guitar really give it competition later. This is a dramatic and involved number that musical is part folk music, part prog and part college music of acts like Camper Van Beethoven. Shapter's vocals land more in the vein of artsy folk music.
Wings on a Prayer
Much more of a folk rock song, this is a classy tune. It has such a cool vibe, and the guitar solo is tasty.
Bonus Track
Wide and High

Piano serves as the backdrop for Shapter's vocals on this stripped back tune that's only on the CD. It gets more lushly arranged later.

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