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Issue #40 March 2002

Marshall Wyatt of Old Hat Records
Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
(Click Here)

Ben Eyler
The Paperhearts
La Pieta

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Acoustic Rain

East Wind Records
11 song CD

Guitarist Tinh Mahoney was born in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, moved as a child with his family to Islamabad, Pakistan, then on to the Philippines as a teen, and finally ended up in the U.S. to attend college as a young adult. As you can well imagine, years later, his music is as colorful as his past. The sound from his solo acoustic guitar is filled with subtle energy, evocative and powerful in its simplicity and openness. His influences are finely blended, a mixture which hints at both the East and the West, revealing a wealth of experience which relies more on feeling than showmanship. His latest album, Acoustic Rain, delves into his past without politics or propaganda, only with the images of music. And with the production help of George Winston, Tinh's creation reveals layer upon layer of depth found in one simple instrument.

We're Still Soldiers opens the disc with a sad tone, adding a small touch of Eastern phrasing between short, driving rhythms. He goes for a more reflective feeling in Mua Tren Song Ma (Rain On The Stallion River), which then turns to the more relaxed Butterflies In A Pagoda. The sharpness of Islamabad leans more heavily on Eastern flavor, while Liam's Lullaby exhibits a quiet and classical feel. As following songs reflect more history and memories, Tinh decides to close the album with a traditional rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, a version which has a definite feeling of comfort and warmth. It's a fitting ending to a group of songs which span a lifetime spent around the globe, finding a place in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

MISH MASH Mandate: Global Guitar

Tinh Website

Ben Eyler
Ben Eyler

Lendell Recordings
5 song CD

From the first bars of Whose Fool Are You, it's easy to see that Ben Eyler is an eager student of blue-eyed soul. After a brief but bluesy guitar intro, Eyler's voice takes command and center stage. His vocals take on the timbre of Paul Weller-meets-Al Green, while the groove settles into mid-60s Stax. Backup singer Tamara Jones provides balance with soulful embellishments which are right on target. The blend is so perfect on this song, you'd swear you were listening to a soul classic. Other highlights on the disc include a driving acoustic stomp, Jetlag Country Blues No. 1, and the quiet R&B sadness of 'Til I Am A Man. And just to keep it interesting, Jones takes over the lead singing duties on Let Me Stay Curious, and she proves that she's much more than just a backup for Mr. Eyler.

Not many artists can faithfully recreate the feeling and excitement of early soul, but Eyler seems to have his finger on the trigger. From the sound of this disc, it's definitely his best bet---and with a new album in the works, let's hope he doesn't stray too far away from this powerful formula.

MISH MASH Mandate: Dictionary of Soul

Ben Eyler Website

Whitford Whitford

Rotary Dial Records
14 song CD

If there is such a thing as alternative fusion, Whitford would be a prime example. The basic approach is prog rock, but the execution is purely "alternative" both in sound and scope. Jangly fuzz guitars ride along with a pounding drumbeat, while snatches of jazz saxophone rise up through the melee. It's an interesting mix, albeit one that lacks an overall focus and intent. Perhaps this is the charm. The tunes seem to undulate without direction, but somehow it all fits together in an unexplainable fashion. About halfway in, the lines between the tracks become a blur, and you eventually end up with a 47 minute long musical collage which swells and recedes like the tide.

As fate would have it, the quartet's lineup has recently split, leaving the future of this experiment in question. Yet, at least they've left this behind.

MISH MASH Mandate: Cold Fusion

Whitford Website

The Paper Hearts
The Paper Hearts

Clunk Records
5 song CD

The Paper Hearts embrace a country-fried sound, approaching the modern western-hippie influences of bands like Beachwood Sparks. Of course, this naturally implies a mild flirtation with The Grateful Dead, although The Paper Hearts tend to steer clear of any "jam band" stereotypes. They bounce from the plodding cow-poke feel of Eyes Dry to the full-throttle driving of Elijah, touching all the bases without flinching. A touch of jangly R.E.M. can be heard in Is One Girl Worth The World, all the while keeping in step with the toe-tapping country tinged beat. It's not an original blend, but more often than not it works surprisingly well. So well, in fact, I'm interested to see what they could do with a full-length release.

MISH MASH Mandate: Rapid Ear Movement

The Paper Hearts Website

La Pieta

5 song CD

La Pieta's Summer is a short-but-sweet taste of dissonance. They weave their magic with a basic touch, sparse in songwriting and in overall sound. Everything seems to jumble around aimlessly, offbeat in vocalization and rhythm, and almost careless in its shifty delivery. The end effect is pure indie pop in the classic sense, avoiding all categorizations and pigeonholes. All that's left is an open and free feeling, complimented with a dual vocal style (one part girlish, one part boyish) which fully realizes the underlying teen angst. The disc gets nowhere fast, leaving you with a hazy sensation of unexplainable melancholy. Which is, of course, the whole point.

MISH MASH Mandate: Lazy Hazy

La Pieta Website

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