Chris Ross is Halfway to Wonderland, however he defines it. With stated influences of Ray LaMontagne, this singer-songwriter from Maine is living his dream with every note that he sings, every lyric he writes. Dreamy love songs these are not, however. They are songs of love, but more of love that is defined in a broader sense. Love of country, dignity, family, sanity. There are some romantic love references, and these are honest descriptions, as close to the moment to moment breath, that love can be observed.

I heard contemporary singer-songwriter tones of the Counting Crows, Ray LaMontagne and even some classic soul influences in these tracks. In your face acoustics like Mumford and Sons make this an exciting contemporary take on folk music. Cool slides of blues guitar bring some Southern charm and history to the instrumentation. But the factor that sets Ross apart from other singer-songwriters today is his lyrics. These songs are thoughtfully laid out in precise narratives, where each word is a symbolic intervention as if in a poem. And the instruments are used to either describe, highlight or contrast the material being illustrated.

Album Review and Commentary by Deb Hebert


Release Dates
(UK): September, 2012
(US): March, 2013

Label: Guardian Angels Records

In 2006, Scottish singer-songwriter, Sandi Thom, rose rapidly to fame in the UK, Australia, Ireland and Germany, after achieving a No. 1 hit single with

"I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker(With Flowers In Her Hair)." This was off her debut album Smile…It Confuses People. Two follow-up albums including, The Pink and Lily (2008) and Merchants and Thieves (2010), also topped charts in several countries.

Born into a musically gifted family, Sandi started playing piano at age 4, singing at 6, and writing by 11. She is influenced by artists from many genres, and seamlessly integrates blues, rock, folk, pop, Americana and country into her compositions.

This is Sandi Thom’s fourth studio album, and her second release on her independent label, Guardian Angels Records. According to her official press biography, "The album was produced by the Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson, and recorded at 16 Tons Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. It features an all-star ensemble, including Black Crowes' drummer Steve Gormanand, and guitarist Audley Freed (who's also worked with Dixie Chicks, Train, Jakob Dylan, and others). It also features special guest appearances from singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and the legendary saxophonist and Rolling Stones collaborator Bobby Keys."

Review by East Chapman chrisross

I met Chris Ross briefly after a benefit concert in Bangor, Maine, on the Fourth of July 2012.  It was well worth the wait in a hard seat and enduring the other acts to see him play.  Suffice it to say, that my first listen made me want to hear more. 

Ross is a singer-songwriter from Coastal Maine with a voice made for acoustic guitar, more dirt road than gravel,  never sliding off to twang, and sharply honest .  The studio arrangements on The Steady Stumble are often sparse, showcasing his writing talent.  In a very informal email exchange, I asked Ross how he writes.  He shared, “I've done almost all of my writing in the winter months, after dark, by the woodstove.  I wrote The Steady Stumble in a 3 month period in the winter of 09/10 after an extra shitty breakup.”  I had to smile – all that heartache was over one breakup? 

When asked about musical influences, he listed several, including Springsteen, The Band, James Taylor, Gregg Allman, as well as contemporaries Jason Isbell and Dawes.   Often compared to Ray LaMontange, Ross shared “Ray LaMontagne changed my life the first time I heard him. I was already a lifetime fan before I ever knew he had Maine connections. He's my John Lennon.”

I saved the CDs Ross gave me for a few days until I could sit down and really listen and let them seep in.   I knew I’d want to squeeze the ache out of them. If you like an artist capable of singing to your memories, your sensibilities, and taking you along a journey of vignettes, listen up.  

Barnaby Saints don't give up and neither do I. They wanted me to hear their music, and I don't let a song fall through the gaps of any inter-net pavement. This folk and bluegrass band is a breath of fresh everything.

From Their Biography:

Barnaby Saints are a Los Angeles based group that fuses a mix of bluegrass, gospel, indie rock and layered harmonies.  Described in one review as " the lovechild of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and The Devil Makes Three," the band fuses old folk story telling with lush vocals, banjo, dobro, and swelling B3 organ to create a unique soundscape.  With a debut EP recorded in June 2011, the band has garnered positive reviews, played great shows, toured on the west coast, and enjoyed performing music together. With a new album and fall tour in the works, Barnaby Saints is looking forward to a full year and more good times.

This EP was self-produced by Barnaby Saints, along with Scott Coslett and Todd Berman, mixed by Scott Coslett and Todd Bergman and mastered by Peter Barker.

Track by Track

Over and Over- The fast running sound is upbeat, while the fiddle follows its own path. The voices are blended with drums that don't overwhelm the song. The lyrics are wise and easy to relate to, making sense of the pace of time and repetition, which often we can not avoid.

Bones- The strong rhythms and harmonies reminded me of Ha Ha Tonka, my favorite folk band from the Ozarks. Facing life and death with courage, there is hope in circular things. Picking guitar and tambourine offer a very different sound from their first song, with poignant categories of phrasing, this track has some power behind it. I'd love to see and hear this played live. It will be a clapping foot stomper for sure!

Half The Time-  The acoustic and clear vocal lead is a great opener to this song. This tune reminded me of "Coming Home' by Langhorne Slim, but the Saints have more production and instruments behind this tune. The sound is clean, romantic, breezy and youthful.

Tennessee-  Dreamy, expansive, reaching, yearning, hopeful.

Washing Me Down- Whistling effects, banjos with harmonies, add a country vibe, to what could be a raw version of a Fleetwood Mac sound, who happened to incorporate a lot of folk and blues into their music. I just saw Lindsey Buckingham , and his entire take on music after all of this time, is that the 'the little machine vs. the big machine' comparison needs to be made constantly, to keep life in the recording industry balanced.

Waiting For Day- We get a little organ leading the group to a sing along with a gospel elevation. The high notes shine with inclusiveness, the fiddle floats.

Blue Winter- This could be a popular radio song. It has a modern singer-songwriter acoustic feel to it, but then moves into the bluegrass form. Barnaby Saints know what they play best and they stand up for it.

This record just fits into exactly what you'd expect from a contemporary folk band and is recommended to any collector of this genre, but it would also be an easy addition to those of us who are new to this song form. It is harmonic, warm, accessible and demonstrates understated talent. The production and arrangements bring out the best in these musicians, when blending their accomplishments as a group.  My only critique is that they get their names out to the public, to get more credit for their work!

    Meet Barnaby Saints:

Drums ~ Anthony Lopez

Bass ~ Frank DiVanna

Organ ~ J.T. Thomas

Upright Bass ~Tom Freund

Fiddle ~ Aubrey Richmond

Support your favorite artist through buying their music:


Co-written by Carolyn Bryant.

Paul Simon: The Graceland 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition Box Set cover

The long history of Paul Simon's music career continues. From Queens, NY, there is no other singer-songwriter like him. His warm smooth voice has been unique and recognizable since the 1950's. With his friend Art Garfunkel, they took on the music world at age 16. From note one in "Hey Schoolgirl," (1957), to the lyrical hymn, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," (1970), and the street anthem, "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard," Simon and Garfunkel became icons of folk-rock music world.

Natchez Trace kbowe

This album was arranged, recorded, engineered, produced, and mixed by Kevin Bowe.

Release Date: 2012.

My discovery of Kevin Bowe's work came directly from Randy Abramson 's website, Rock Torch.The site interviews rock musicians and asks them who they would recommend the readers listen to, in terms of new music or unearthed gems. They follow a wide range of musicians from many genres, and I stumbled across an article on Alex Chilton after he died. I am a huge fan of the Replacements, Paul Westerberg, Grandpa Boy, and anything else that Westerberg wants to call his music.

Corresponding with Kevin Bowe to set up this review has been a privilege. Picking up a guitar at 13 years old, he is in this business for the love of the music and the good life. And what is the good life? Not necessarily being famous, but having the joy of writing for, and playing music with, his 'heroes'. He toured and recorded with Paul Westerberg, and they co-wrote the song, "Everybody Lies." He also recorded with Etta James, Johnny Lang, The Meat Puppets, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leo Kottke, Three Dog Night and dozens of other artists. With this expanse of recording and touring history from Bowe, I had instant respect for his experience. After just a slight amount of research, I learned that this Minneapolis writer, producer and guitarist, has scored 3 Platinum records, and written songs on two Grammy award winning albums, while working with Paul Westerberg.

This current record, "Natchez Trace" is all his own, with contributions from Paul Westerberg, Freedy Johnston, Chuck Prophet, Tim O'Reagan (Jayhawks), Nels Kline (Wilco) and Scarlet Rivera (Dylan/Desire).

Counting Crows

Album Review: Underwater Sunshinecountingcrows

Berkeley, CA

Underwater Sunshine is a timeless record that connects current and past music history through the favorite listens of the band. The Counting Crows are so skilled that they've made good song choices to evolve these tracks into their own. They've also challenged themselves and raised the bar a bit on some attempts, which is great for an experienced Counting Crows listener, and a fun jaunt for a newcomer. With tracks originally from The Faces, The Pure Prairie League, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, Big Star and others, this is a great addition to any acoustic rock fans' collection and an interesting walk down obscure memory lane for a record collector. ~Bluebird

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