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Music Review: Haynie & Samuel – Here in America

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From every back road and small town in this nation, there come vivid images, haunting melodies, and inspirational thoughts. When you find yourself at the crossroads, New York-based folk duo Don Haynie and Sheryl Samuel can help you find bearing and course. After all, they’ve been on the road since the mid-1980s.

Recognizing our broad land as a melting pot with considerable opportunity, the title cut is also a cautionary tale about America’s wrongs that come with so many rights. Don and Sheryl sing, “That there’s room for us all to abide, Golf course and ghetto, A Tangled rainbow, Spreads across the millennium sky, Here in America, Here in America.” In similar fashion, their own influences come from the multiple genres of folk, blues, jazz, and rock. “Roomers” even pays a lyrical tribute “to those old-time airs that the late night radio will play.” “Sawdust Avenue” acknowledges “the songs we sang, some were old and some were new, I never hear them now, without seeing me and you.”

Their thematic 2-CD album Here in America is full of multi-hued spectral colors “like the red and gold in autumn or a morning glory bloom.” A 20-page CD booklet with lyrics and photos is included with the record.

Despite some occasional disillusionment and admonition, the duo conveys optimism in the form of wildflowers, good folks, a warming fire, shelter, grapes on the vine, and fruit on the tree. While we all encounter sadness or grief now and then, “There’s a Lot of That Goin’ Around” tells us to remain focused on the luck and happiness that eventually comes. The second disc in this album presents an original song in three parts called “The Pride of the City” that makes a poignant statement about events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. For fun and interest, Don and Sheryl also offer a few instrumental mixes of the song.

Instrumentally, guitarist Haynie and percussionist Samuel are supplemented with bass (Scott Petito), percussion (Randy Ciarlante), accordion & keyboards (Professor Louie), saxophone & clarinet (Harvey Kaiser), and violin (Larry Packer). These proficient upstate New York musicians have performed on the duo’s prior albums.

While most were recorded in New York, two interesting cuts with their own electric Cajun persona are “God Bless Louisiana” and “Country Tavern on a Saturday Night” that pull in Lee Benoit (accordion), Valerie Benoit (electric guitar), Bill Grass (fiddle), Vern Lagneaux (bass), and Gary Usey (drums). Haynie and Samuel’s jambalaya is complete with another musical image – “the jukebox rockin’ through the door.” Louisiana is clearly another place they love, and Lee Benoit and the Bayou Stompers brought those two songs to life.

Always capturing a sense of musical place, Haynie & Samuel’s Americana music on Here in America is recommended as a diverse ocean of emotion and wanderlust with harmonized beauty.

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