Michael Veitch, Painted Heart
The latest release from Woodstock-based singer-songwriter Michael Veitch takes the listener through the mostly dark recesses of the heart, but with sweet tones and an appealing sense of weightlessness. With a little Cat Stevens and a little Al Stewart in his flutey voice, a lot of skill and soul in his songs, a batch of major studio cats helping out (Steve Holly, Artie Traum, Pete Levin), and beautiful production by Julie Last, Veitch's music has a timeless quality.
It's the hooks that pull you into his soft country-rock songs like "Goodbye (Never Sounded So Sweet)," "Omaha," and the wonderful "Last Chances," while in the quieter tunes like "Quarryman" it's more the mellow but moving wash of sound that captures attention. Either way, although you might note shades of Laurel Canyon, timeless is the word. As Veitch sings in the sad, haunting "Cursed Heart": "Mothers, you've sung me serenades / Danced my years away / Then put me on the last train." But you'll probably want to come back the next day for another ride.
Josh Fix, Free At Last
A few months back I had the opportunity to review the latest disc from Littlehorse, a great 21st century progressive piano-pop group. Now, along the same lines, comes pianist/multi-instrumentalist Josh Fix's crackling debut. Fix's densely produced, rocking, accessible pop, which will remind some listeners of Ben Folds, has a more compressed quality than Folds or Littlehorse, but that's probably because he plays everything himself (except for the drums).
The songs are filled to the brim with richly woven Queen-like harmonies, pounding piano chords, fluid vocals, and expansive chord changes that evoke good-time pop and rock without falling into cliche. And the lyrics take a slant-eyed view of things: "I've been going with a rock and roll slut / 'Least that's what she calls herself (I know she's not) / She's so good she won't even complain when I come home late smelling like a drain/ And we're so punk living by the bay…" This may sounds like the wailing of a generation lost in a maze of irony, but Josh Fix has captured it in his music with the vividness of the found.
The disc falls short of perfect: there's a degree of sameness that runs through some of the songs, despite – or maybe because of – the sometimes self-conscious virtuosity. Nonetheless this is a superb debut.
Keith Killgo, This World
This release from jazz/fusion drummer Keith Killgo is a curious but satisfying mix of fusion, R&B, rock, and a bit of blues, with contributions from a number of great musicians including vocalist Sam Smith, guitarist Larry Coryell, saxman Joe Henderson, and Donald Byrd himself, in whose group the Blackbyrds Killgo was a fixture in the 1970s. Sometimes when a drummer or bassist steps up as leader, the group loses the big picture on what makes a song, or an arrangement, appealing. Not so here – Killgo's drumming is a star here, but not a pushy one. Highlights include "Kojo Blues" with Sam Smith on vocals, Javon Jackson's buttery sax on "Round About Midnight," and "Sparkle Byrd" which features Byrd's trumpet.