varius artists

by Jason Hoffman Union

      Local musician Mimi Burns, concerned over the plight of starving children, decided to take action. Through contacting various local and national musicians she has created a compilation of Americana/folk/rock music, the proceeds of which will go to the fine folks at www.feed333.com. What is Feed 333? In their own words: “We are Feminine Enlightened Entrepreneurs Dedicated to serving the children of the world and to inspiring possibility, greatness and prosperity.” Feed 333's plan is to feed 3 million children in 33 days. To make this happen they're working with other organizations that use at least 99 percent of their revenue to fund programs serving children in need.

      The compilation album, Union, is loaded with national artists. Gypsy Soul kick things off with “Who,” featuring strong but frail female vocals in a hushed evening sound that kicks in halfway through with fretless bass, drums and a wash of guitar haze, proving themselves to be extremely good songwriters. Lyrics such as “Do I give enough? / Do I trust enough?” fit the album's theme perfectly. Rob Hotchkiss' “Midnight Ghost” is a sorrowful but hopeful folk tune with a very engaging melody that is packed with excellent mandolin and cello flourishes. Craig Lyons sings “California” with just his acoustic/electric guitar. Far from sparse, Lyons' wonderful voice and playing fill out the song nicely.

      Regional favorite Duane Eby brings steel drums and a Jamaican feel to the memorable “Bend Down,” a song that ends with a sizzling guitar outro. Next is Michael Arkk's “Easier Said,” another tune with a slight island feel that features a gospel choir and lyrics about overcoming adversity. In “Bold Son” Aaron Espe pairs a calm relaxed tune with an acoustic guitar and encouraging lyrics such as “Don’t look back / You’ve come so far / It’s safe where you are.” In the same vein, Randy Spencer’s velvety vocals and rich harmonies make “Fade to Black” a quick favorite for singer/songwriters across the region.

      Bridging the gap between folk and rock is the Trainhoppers' “Banks of the Cumberland,” a bluegrass song that gets you shufflin’ and clappin’. The song works vocal harmonies and astounding musicianship into a memorable tale of personal history. The Pillars of Society get their feet wet in “Gleason’s Pond,” a party of a song if ever there was one, stacking fiddles and mandolins against fast-paced drums and lyrics that are sure to put a smile on your face.

      Next up are the blues and their kin. “What’s the Blues,” featuring Jon Gillespie on piano and vocals by Diamond Lil' and Walkin’ Papers, playfully avoids the standard blues chord progression while still retaining the feel. Steve Romig sets a funky R&B groove on “Rock My World” by using his smooth vocals to augment an intoxicating sea of whirling organs. “The truth will set you free,” sings Amae Allen in her soulful “Nobility,” a more traditional R&B song with hand percussion, guitar, bass and vocals that slip and slide up and down the scale like they were coated in Teflon.

      In “Pry Up the Stones,” a song recorded at Monastic Chambers by Lydia Brown, classical female vocals lead the way through a twilight backdrop full of mysterious Goth charm where violins hypnotically dance their way into your head. Sunny Taylor adds “If I Run,” matching her deft acoustic guitar stylings to her rich, soulful vocals to evoke a gentle and pleasant vibe. Burns and her band contribute “Wooden Door,” an exciting song with a Celtic edge that opens with cello and harp before romantically sweeping into a passionate vocal exchange with Mark Turney. Despite bringing in non-traditional instruments such as the didgeridoo and bagpipes on “Stand Beside Me,” Brother offer a song that is very clean, radio friendly and sure to raise anyone's spirits. Closing out the album is Garcia's “Hungarian Dances Fantasy," a techno-infected version of the classic Brahms piece that is sure to get you movin'.

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