Monday, June 17, 2013

Music Review: Deciduous - New album by Megan Keely

Megan Keely – Deciduous
Album review by Nina Jo Smith © 2013 Redwood River Music   

I planned my first listen to this album to accompany my morning movement practice.  But Megan’s album is so good I had to sit and start taking notes immediately and dance around when I couldn't resist moving.

The sound and lyrical maturity of Deciduous is remarkable – Megan is clearly an old soul steeped in musical tradition. She swam out of the womb into a family where dad toured in a psychedelic rock band with family in tow. My advice is to completely disregard her disclaimer of being a late starter.

From her Acorn release to “dropping leaves of maturity” here in Deciduous, here’s what Megan has to offer Dreamers and friends. I’m going track-by-track why? Because these songs deserve it.

1 – Oh, Come And Sing – Reassures with a calm, steady voice, strong lyric plays on tradition but is ever current. Energy builds along with the imagery of feather and bone, contrasting soft and hard. And you can move to it.

2 – Easy – The vocal entrance is strong but not overpowering. Understated percussion supports a loping rhythm as words tumble over eachother. The effect is that of a rhythmic not-too-Celtic tapestry. I’d promised myself not to make comparisons with other artists but I’m thinking Norah Jones meets Glen Hansard somewhere in the course of this song.

3 – I Met You – Right about now I’m grateful that this is a young artist who doesn’t begin every song with “I” because that makes me pay attention to the first person voice introduced here among the spare bass accompaniment. It’s a simple direct lyric that builds the message, hail love, well met.

4 – Just Enough Time – Sweet syncopated strumming introduces folky poetry sung by a wise young voice. Spare picking to richly bowed strings supports character-based verses. It’s deceptively easy-going and original. Did I already mention Norah Jones meets Glen Hansard? Charming. That may be the word I’m looking for here.

5 – Rules – Spare introduction with driving rhythm from which emerges that voice we’ve come to depend on for making our lives instantly just a little bit more bearable. “Don’t just feel what you’ve been told to feel.” If you’re listening properly you’ll be dancing around the room well before the final verse.

6 - Dream It Now – Kai’s superb muted trumpet opens, and the line is supported seamlessly by keyboard sounding somewhere on the border of Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer. O, Say Can You See I hope I can be forgiven for thinking this song is about me (born on the 4th of July). For the love of God, buy this track and not only because 10% goes in support of Dream Act folks, some of the brightest stars of our country’s future.

7 – This Night - This easygoing country waltz has just enough brass to conjure images of gypsies in cowboy boots tapping tambourines in a vaguely legal New Orleans speakeasy – “I’ll bring this song with me.”  Willie Nelson, are you listening?

8 - The Story Starts With You – Ominous antihero ballad carried along by incredibly thoughtful string arrangement and supported by keys with a mysterious wash of sound, the source of which I shan’t divulge (you’ll have to guess.)

9 - Nashville, Tennessee – Good ol’ fingerpicked rag – “I fell in love with Nashville, Tennessee,” (But will it last?) I hope so because I’ll bet Nashville couldn’t help but fall in love back. Megan didn’t have to go to Nashville to record such a fine album but I’m glad she did.

Finally let me say something about the mastering. Full disclosure, Eric Conn also mastered my recent release and he’s done as fine a job here. I think of mastering as the firing of a work in the kiln to seal its final luster. Megan’s attention to this finishing step contributes yet another detail among so many that makes Deciduous stand out.

writer credits
Oh, Come and Sing 
written by Megan Keely, Brandon Keely, Kai Welch, and Brittany Haas 

Easy, Just Enough Time, and Rules 
written by Megan Keely and Brandon Keely 

Dream It Now 
written by Megan Keely and Kai Welch 

The Story Starts With You 
written by Megan Keely, Brandon Keely, and Brittany Haas 

I Met You, This Night, and Nashville, Tennessee 
written by Megan Keely

musician credits
Megan Keely - Vocals, Guitar, Tenor Ukulele 
Brandon Keely - Guitar, Harmony Vocals 
Kai Welch - Trumpet, Guitar, Keys, Harmony Vocals 
Brittany Haas - Fiddle 
Jamie Dick - Drums, Percussion 
Jon Estes - Bass, Pedal Steel 
Nathaniel Smith - Cello 
Shelby Means - Bass 

Produced by
Megan Keely, Brandon Keely, Kai Welch, & Erick Jaskowiak 

Engineered and Mixed By: 
Erick Jaskowiak at J Studio, Nashville, TN, February 2013 

Track 6 mixed by: 
Gordon Brislawn, Bad Habit Recordings

Mastered by: 
Eric Conn Independent Mastering 

Releases 12 July 2013 
CD Release Party July 12 at The Chapel 

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