Whatzup
A Reverent Cat in a Dog's World
various artists

by Jason Hoffman Reverent Cat
With the release of A Reverent Cat in a Dog’s World, a compilation CD for the benefit of Autistic Spectrum children, it looks like jazz bassist Dave Nelson is making this an annual thing. The latest in the “cat in a dog’s world” series contains 20 tracks, many of which are from national artists. Let’s tuck in, shall we?

The album opens and closes with “Wonders” by Dream Rodeo, a moniker covering Jon Gillespie of Monastic Chambers and Monkey Wings Records’ Jeff Britton. These ambient choral pieces combine the ethereal with the electronic, calmly floating vocals atop a sea of pulsing beats. Eric Clancy’s skillful playing accompanies Todd Harrold’s rich, full vocals on the timeless R&B “Peace at the Center” from his album Real. The only other track even remotely R&B is “Just Like You” by Jacob Moon, where Wurlitzer electric piano, a slow, soulful groove and gospel backing vocals give a touch of the 70s to the catchy melody.

A number of the tracks take a playful turn, the first being “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” by Front Porch Swing Band. This ragtime boogie-woogie beat is invigorating and captivating, providing a perfect playground for various solos by mandolin, fiddle, upright bass and banjo. The downright silly “Love Feels the Same Way Everywhere” by Peter Himmelman brings in loads of sound effects on this piano-based ditty where he states that “love is the one feeling everybody needs,” despite being from Mexico or Mars. “Talk To The Animals,” a personal favorite from Matt Taylor’s most recent album, is also included complete with vocal fugue, melodic interweaving and bright, cheery melody. A clean and carefree 70s rock vibe permeates “All The Places You Can Run” by Don Chaffer & Waterdeep, providing an encouraging melody that makes it easy to believe the lyrics that you really can take flight.

Three songs explore the darker musical side with David Todoran’s “Drive All Night” leading the pack. This slow, spiraling masterpiece is surrounded by a haze of colorful swamp gas that accompanies lyrics like “If we drive all night / If we drive in to the light / There’s a chance we might survive.” “The End” by Vade is a fallen love song, an atypical piano ballad packed with emotion and a sobering melody. Lori Chaffer adds a ray of hope with choral backing to the otherwise tranquil and melancholy “Make No Protest,” a murky exploration of pump organs and mystery, finding in the end that “You will never be the same.”

Songs from traditionally folk artists abound on Reverent Cat, chief among them is the amazing guitarist/songwriter David Wilcox and his insightful song “If It Wasn’t For The Night,” which is encouraging despite the dark picture of “walk[ing] this road alone” that it paints. Devon Sproule brings her dulcet vocals to “Tristan And Isolde” from her album Upstate Songs, a beautiful lullaby of acoustic guitar, voice, and viola. Bob Bennett adds another lullaby with “Angels Around Your Bed,” a warm and friendly prayer joining mandolin to Bennett’s warm and friendly voice. Folk lullaby No. 3 is by Pierce Pettis’ “Great Big World,” where he gently sings that “My love for you is as ferocious as a lion / And it fills me up ‘til I almost feel like crying,” while a tranquil mandolin, fiddle and banjo send the child off to dreamland. For the ultimate in folk go no further than the instrumental “Stairwell Time / The Slipping Jig / Sky Paint” by U.S. National Scottish Fiddle champion Jeremy Kittel, who has a brother with autism. This original composition is every bit the appealing Celtic spree that you think it is.

Steve Bell bridges the gap of folk and rock with “Here by the Water,” a song about bringing whatever we have to God so that He will make it holy and use it for His good, complete with bigdrums, acoustic guitar, resounding piano, clean vocal harmonies and an uplifting melody. Although “Only Time Will Tell” by Carolyn Arends is about a baby who struggled to live for 130 days “on love and force of will” the song refuses to sound morose, taking a positive spin with a bright melody and almost militant rolling snare drums that rouse the listener. A second Arends song, “Not A Tame Lion,” combines a joyful melody with such surprising extras as sitar and bouzouki for a most compelling mid-tempo rock song that will add levity to the most droll of lives. “Happy Lightning” by Allen Levi goes even farther, being downright bouncy with a round bass, ringing guitars and simple celebration of the good and unexpected gifts of life.

A Reverent Cat in a Dog’s World is great music for a great cause. It and the first three compilations benefiting children with Autistic Spectrum are available at www.CatInADogsWorld.com. Or if you’re feeling sociable attend the CD release party at 6 p.m. on December 1 at Mad Anthony Brewing Company. The album will be available for a mere 10 bucks, and you’ll get to experience live performances by David Todoran, Matt Taylor, Todd Harrold Organ Trio and Devon Sproule.

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