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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Various Artists

Santa Barbara Records presents CaliAmericana Vol. 2

Review by Gary Hill

This is a unique release. Each artist here contributed two songs to this collection. One is an original, and the other a cover of Jackson Browne. I have to admit, that while I have always appreciated Browne's music, I really only know the hits, so I often can't tell which is which. This is quite a varied collection in terms of style, but it's all quality music.

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Track by Track Review
Chris Beland - "Return to Pooh"
Intricate acoustic guitar serves as the backdrop for a vocal duet. This is an effective piece of music that's performed with style.
Katie Skene - "Until You Were Mine"
There are hints of country music in this. That's particularly true of the electric guitar solo. I really like the genuine nature of Katie Skene's vocals. This song is very effective and works so well. The arrangement has just enough layers to really make it shine.
Jackson Gillies - "Head Over Heels"
This is largely a piano based ballad. That concept holds it for much of the duration, but it gets augmented and powered up for a time mid=track before eventually dropping back down to its origins to end. While this is another strong cut, I don't think it's quite up to the same level as the two that preceded it.
Trevor Bahnson - "I Want You to Know"
I dig the powered up folk rock meets alternative approach on this. It has a real soaring quality to it. I can hear hints of things akin to shoegaze on this. Yet, it also has so much Americana in the mix. It's a great song however you slice it up. This is one of the highlights here for me.
Dominique Pruitt - "Won't Hold My Breath"
There is a lot of country and Americana built into this piece. It's more powered up than a lot of the stuff here, but it doesn't work as well as some of the rest do, at least for me. It's not bad, It just doesn't stand as tall as others here do.
Glen Phillips - "I'm Alright"
This classic song gets an unusual retelling. It has an intriguing rhythmic groove to it. The backing vocals have a timeless quality. The whole tune works pretty well, but again it's not a standout for me.
Katie Skene - "Lovin Me"
I really dig the bluesy, country styled sound on this tune. This is another highlight of the set. This gets pretty soulful and classy in the more impassioned closing section.
Hunter Hawkins - "What A Fool Believes"
I really love the soft rock arrangement on this cover of another well-known song. There is a little bit of a jazz vibe to it. I'm reminded a little Rickie Lee Jones for some reason. This has a classic, timeless quality to it.
Dominique Pruitt - "Danny's Song"
Another well-known song, this gets a seriously mellow country treatment. The slide guitar really has a lot do with that, but the vocals have a bit of a twang, too. This is another that is effective, but not really a standout for me.
Chris Beland - "Hotel Song"
Another highlight, this has a great electrified soft rock arrangement. It is packed with style and charm. This gets some great augmentation as the musical structure fills out, too.
Hunter Hawkins - "Seen"
Starting with an acoustic guitar based arrangement, that holds it for the first vocal parts. Eventually other instruments are added bringing both world music and roots elements to the proceedings.
Trevor Bahnson - "Celebrate Me Home"
Slow moving acoustic driven roots music is on the menu here. This has some definite country angles to it. This turns a little towards guitar jazz later, but the multilayered vocal arrangement still hangs onto that country thing.
Glen Phillips "Hope In The Light"
A slow moving, mellower number, I like this one a lot. It has a really pretty sound to it. It's gentle, but yet it's also soaring. It's fairly stripped back, but it still has some real richness in the arrangement.
Jackson Gillies - "This Is It"
Another great tune, this comes in stripped back and mellow, but it grows out as it works forward. Again, this gets close to proggy territory later and has some real jazz-like elements. It's an intriguing version of a classic song.
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