Cody Jackson, Dave Burchfield, Rachel Baiman: Recent Releases

Cody Jackson, Where the River Meets the Sky (EP)

Isn't Cody Jackson a great name for a musician from British Columbia? The talent matches the handle. As heard on his new 5-song EP, Jackson sports a big voice that often calls to mind the husk in Richard Shindell's timbre. "Where the River Meets the Sky" isn't a good song; it's a great one. When Jackson airs it out, you can conjure big mountains, vast horizons, and cold rivers bending beyond the eye's vanishing point. The album version has added reverb, but I've seen videos of Jackson doing this one justice solo, and the fact that he plays an Epiphone dreadnaught further endears him to me. (It was my first guitar.) I also admire Jackson's ability with the pen. Who hasn't had a relationship that could be described as "Right Place, Wrong Time?" In spirited bursts and stops, Jackson proceeds to sing: We started out as two unknowns/A king and queen of different roads. That line alone tells you things probably won't go well. Ditto a line from "Unchanging:" I know I'm free of sin/But my actions speak differently. My second favorite song (after the title track) is "Cherished One," which is sparse yet powerful. Jackson builds the song through the use of ever-so-slight catches in his voice that dial drama up a notch without venturing into overkill territory. As a musician, singer, and songwriter Jackson is both expressive and impressive. ★★★★

Dave Burchfield, Beginnings

Dave Burchfield took a six-year hiatus from music that he thought would be permanent, but he's back with a band and a new EP that's ironically titled Beginnings. This is bluegrass from the folk end of the spectrum. He often takes his time laying out his tune and his light voice can sometimes get lost even though the melodies are generally quiet. Still, it's nice to welcome him back onto the trail. Sample "Arkansas" with its spare but pretty melody. "Have Tried" is also a good one, a waltz about that age-old dilemma: is this relationship working or not? ★★★

Rachel Baiman, Thanksgiving  (EP) 

Rachel Baiman sings, plays banjo, saws a mean fiddle, and can pick it on the guitar. You can sample her country, bluegrass, and old time music wares on her new EP Thanksgiving. Baiman has been clearly influenced by the late John Hartford. You can hear this on "Tent City," whose melody lines evoke "Gentle on My Mind." She also does a cover of "Madison, Tennessee," which isn't one of Hartford's but was penned by the John Hartford String Band. There's a fine video of her singing this one with Molly Tuttle and if you're not impressed by Tuttle's cross picking, there's no pleasing you. I will caution that Baiman's voice is nasal and deliberately muddy at times. This might not be everyone's taste, but she sure can play. ★★★

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