John Curtis — Short Songs about Affordable Food
(Big Balloon Music BBM503, 2007, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2008-01-01An interesting concept — and a successful one too, that certainly lives up to its title. There are 43 songs here, and only a handful break the minute-and-a-half mark. Some are instrumentals, but most have lyrics with subject matter about... well, candy, burgers, snacks, pizza, soup, burritos, bagels etc. and their ramifications and importance within the larger scheme of things — and let's not forget the coffee! Within that context, Curtis' vocals are outstanding, and the music is impeccably produced throughout; he is joined by a number of guests on various instruments to augment his own guitars, keyboards and drums, while others contribute lyrics to some of the songs. Stylistically, one can hear the influence from Todd Rundgren, Mike Keneally, The Tubes, and even an occasional flash of Uncle Frank himself, in the widescreen production, jazzy segues, vocal harmonies, and wry wit. The material crosses all kinds of boundaries from 80s styled new wave MTV rock to progressive to art-pop with elements of soul, country rock, old-timey big-band with bits of jazz and classical woven in seamlessly, all saturated with the brilliance of vision in these vignette length pieces; perfect mind fodder for the attention-defecit generation. Throughout, Curtis establishes himself as an artist and composer that won't allow himself to be painted into any corners.
Related artist(s): John Curtis
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.