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The Samurai of Prog — A Quiet Town
(Seacrest Oy, 2024, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2024-06-10

A Quiet Town Cover art

In a small town in the American South, a young woman is murdered, and the investigation of her death exposes a web of vice and deceit involving the local priest, the man who owns a local factory, the mayor, and a doctor, all of whom had reasons to want her out of the picture. This is not the setup for the latest Netflix series, but for the latest concept album by The Samurai of Prog, a band based in Finland but started by Italian expat Marco Bernard. Bernard plays bass, and the other constant musicians are Kimmo Pörsti (drums) and Marco Grieco (keyboards), the latter of whom wrote the music and lyrics as well as the basic story. The other musicians vary from track to track, including a number of well-known people: Ben Craven (guitar, vocals), Peakfiddler (violin), Luke Shingler (flute), Ron Alonso (vocals), Juhani Nisula (guitar), Olli Jaakola (flute), Steve Unruh (violin, vocals), Tony Riveryman (guitar), Ivan Santovito (vocals), Marco Vincini (vocals), Michael Trew (vocals), Andy Nixon (vocals), and Linus Kåse (saxophone), with each singer taking on one of the characters in the story. Musically, we’re firmly in symphonic progressive rock territory, with lush keyboards and dramatic compositions. The lyrics are sometimes a bit awkward, reading like the work of an educated non-native English speaker, and some of the singers have noticeable accents, though that’s usually not an issue, barring one particularly bad line in “The Doctor,” where the word “hallucinogens” is pronounced “halluciNAHgens.” That’s just weird. Fans of Rick Wakeman’s classic concept albums of the 70s will find lots to enjoy here (with better singers, to be sure). The guests on guitar and violin especially acquit themselves well, and the keyboard work is solid, so musically I think a lot of prog fans should really enjoy this. I have lingering questions about the validity of someone who’s not from the American South telling this story, but to be honest, the depth needed for a concept album probably doesn’t call for much more than a familiarity with books and movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird. When dealing with a story set in a particular place and time rather than an imaginary place, a native is more likely to provide details that have more than a surface understanding. But it’s generally easy to ignore these questions and just enjoy the music, so don’t let my existential doubt spoil your listening experience.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): Michael Trew, Steve Unruh, Ben Craven, The Samurai of Prog


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