I remembered reviewing an earlier release by Casper McCloud and his band, and I REALLY liked it. Being a classic rock/prog rock fan, the sound was right where I wanted to be. So, when I was asked to review this new release, I quickly found time to listen. Just for the uninitiated, Caspar McCloud is an accomplished portrait artist, an equestrian, a virtuoso guitarist, singer, and songwriter, as well as an ordained minister, and author. Caspar presently pastors a church called, “The Upper Room” in Roswell, GA, when he is not out traveling as a musician and a guest speaker. Instantly, I was hooked by this 24 track, 2 disc release. My immediate thought was it is reminiscent of Dave Flett (Manfred Manns Earth Band) and Thin Lizzy, among other bands and his style of guitar playing – plus occasional touches of Eddie Van Halen, too. Throughout the album, the listener is treat to driving beats, loud guitars, guitar soloing and spiritual lyrics. Not necessarily songs to have on in the car driving through a slow-down zone, but windows down, singing top of your voice! So, to the song themselves. ‘Up to Something’ has direct lyrics that challenge the devil on his actions and crimes against humanity. Alongside Caspar’s vocals, are thundering guitar riffs and drum breats, before his trademark solo sound appears during a short break. Then, we mustn’t forget the Rene Truex’s electric fiddle playing! The following ‘Gather’ is a slightly lighter tune that is calling us to gather around Jesus and the simple truths; ‘He is willing to deliver and receive us’ ‘Knowing the truth makes you free.’ Track 5 is a change of feeling. There’s a more positive set of riffs, a brighter sound, and great bass lines. If that’s not enough, there’s some great, vocal harmonies, as Caspar asks if you are ‘Unredeemable?’ The song is a reminder that no-one is beyond redemption. It’s a simple gospel message, with a violin rock solo, which then makes away for more screaming guitar licks. As I write, I’m not a quarter of the way through the CD and I already want to start it again, as it is so good! I would love to comment on each track but the review would be just too long. Just an acoustic guitar and strings are used on ‘No Eye Has Seen.’ The feel is almost McCartneyish, yet distinctly Caspar. Lyrically, you could imagine it being pulled from scripture as it is portrayed as a psalm. Yet these are Caspar’s own words. ‘What You’re looking For’ has a touch of The Travelling Wilberys about it. Close my eyes, and I could visualise the likes of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan singing this one! I try not to find group styles when describing tracks here and there. But, I guess, we have similar musical roots and it brings so many memories of great bands, and this band is no exception! The second disc continues with a mix of Rock, Country rock and, now and again, good pop songs such as ‘Darker and Lighter.’ Lyrically, the song tells of the darkness of this world, but also offers the light of the world in the shape of our Saviour. Another highlight of the track listing is ‘Watch and Pray.’ It’s back to pure rock with a great arrangement. Once again, those violin sounds flow over grungy guitars, while Caspar reminds us to watch and pray. There are so many great tracks, and even an instrumental or two! Joined by his musical comrades, Carlos Merced on drums, Donovan SL on keyboards, the previously mentioned Rene on violin, Caspar’s band are unique, yet so familiar at times. As well as during the sung lyrics, you can feel the joy of being able to convey God’s love in such a way. I would love to see the band live. In the meantime, I look forward to listening this again and again. 10/10 Noel Donaldson
Some 14 years ago, I remember reviewing Vini’s ‘Kingdom of Conscience’ album, and liking his sound to that of Bob Dylan. Since then, he’s continued to record, showing that he’s more than a one trick pony, when it comes to songwriting. This latest album begins with some lovely acoustic guitar picking, as Vini performs ‘The Umbrella/Scenario,’ a song about finding Christ and welcoming Him into your life. The next song has children’s vocals taking the lead. Vini joins them for the chorus on the super, singalong, ‘If We Could All Believe in Jesus.’ This one got an instant replay, as I reviewed. Vini has often included some neat harmonica playing on his albums, over the years, and the instrument makes a welcome appearance on the foot tappin’ ‘I Am a Child of God.’ Completely, different in style, is ‘David’s Last Words,’ which reminded a little of the musician, Michael Card. Indeed, the following ‘The Adam & Eve Song’ follows that thought, with Vini weaving the words of the well-known Bible story, into a modern, folk, backing. The song works really well, even when distorted guitar sounds make a brief appearance, over the acoustic and string sounds. Vocally, Vini is quite at home with whatever style he produces. The mellow ‘A Separate Reality’ benefits (I believe) from the doubling up of his voice. The result is quite beautiful. ‘Jesus King of Kings’ was originally released a couple of years ago as a single. I liked it then, and it still gives me a tingle, as the words praise & worship Jesus. Closing the track listing is the album’s title track. It made me smile, as this song took me back to that time I first heard this artist. This is Vini’s Dylanesque number, that looks forward to the triumphant return of the Son of Man. I love it! Albums like this make reviewing such a pleasure. Original songs, with heart and soul poured into them by the writer. Welcome back Vini, it’s been a while. 9/10. https://www.vinicontreas.com
John Cowan has announced the release of his emotional rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When He Returns.” The track, which features Reese Wynans, was produced by John Carter Cash. Proceeds from the sale of the song will benefit Nashville-based Thistle Farms, a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support. Cowan will perform “When He Returns” live on Easter Sunday during the 9:30 a.m. streaming service of St. Augustine’s Chapel. Listeners can also tune in for Jeannie Seely’s interview with Cowan and the premiere of the recording during Sundays With Seely on SiriusXM Willies Roadhouse channel 59 from 11a – 3p cst. “When He Returns” is available on all digital music platforms on Friday, April 2 here.
Grammy award-winning musician and New York Times bestselling author Rory Feek has released a stirring cover of the famous Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are A-Changin’”—the first single off of Rory’s upcoming album, Gentle Man.
With Gentle Man, Rory tells stories that are familiar to him as they are to many—those of everyday life in a small town, heartbreak, healing, and salvation. “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” one of Dylan’s most famous anthems, was written amidst turbulent times that have echoed loudly through recent weeks and months. In Rory’s hands, the song resonates with profound meaning both personal and universal. It’s a reminder of the constant current of relentless change that sweeps everyone along… and the way that time and the search for truth and meaning impacts us all.
Set for release via Gaither Music on June 18th, a week before Father’s Day, Gentle Man marks the musician’s first album release since the loss of his wife, Joey, to cancer in 2016. It’s also the singer-songwriter’s first-ever solo album. He’s not alone, however; on Gentle Man, Rory welcomes some of his closest friends and fellow musicians to join him, including Vince Gill.
Although Gentle Man is Rory’s first album in several years, he’s been busy with a variety of projects spanning across television, books, and more. Last spring, he premiered This Life I Live, an intimate docu-series detailing his ordinary-yet-extraordinary life as a single father, family man, and musician. He also published a children’s book inspired by his daughter, Indiana: The Day God Made You. In September, Rory invited children around the world to his Hardison Mill Homestead School via the magic of the internet for the entertaining and educational The One Room Schoolhouse web series. All of Rory’s recent projects have focused on his life, family, and raising Indy. Gentle Man ties all these threads together—and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” is a stunning first look.
Take a splash of Badly Drawn Boy, a spoonful of Jack Johnson, add a sprinkling of The Beach Boys and top off with a little Waterboys Fisherman’s Blues era and you’ll come close to Throwback Kid. Pete James is back with a sound that instantly feels like it’s a summer’s day, walking along the water’s edge. A laid back, lazy organ sound and piano is Pete’s musical vehicle. However, the lyrics have a real message to politicians. “No-one is saying your job is easy……..you’ve got to stand up for peace, you’ve gotta love the people.” At times, there’s even a hint of Bob Dylan in the vocals, a’la “Like A Rolling Stone.” I’m not sure that this was written as a protest song, or a prayer? But, it certainly makes for a song with a clear message. 7/10.
Listen to “Love the People” here:
74 year old gospel diva MAVIS STAPLES was interviewed in a recent edition of the UK’s Big Issue magazine. In the interview the singer spoke about her memories of Dr Martin Luther King, growing up in the same neighbourhood as Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Sam Cooke and a proposal of marriage she once had from Bob Dylan.
NFN friend and singer, VINI CONTREAS wrote to let us know that “The Dylan Thomas Show” (a solo acoustic tribute to the songs of Bob Dylan) recently debuted at The Dekker Center in North Battleford, Saskatchewan . . A video company, Bamboo Shoots, came in from Saskatoon to shoot the show for Sasktel Cable where it is running On-Demand at present. Here is a link to the opening cut from the show: “Blowin’ In The Wind” . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gksj2gCyvUs