About Face

$15.00

It would be easy to make much of nationally known touring bands breezing through our fair city for no more than a few hours or aspiring acts rising up from local colleges. But what of the dedicated musicians who have chosen to make Columbia home base for the majority of their careers? Two such songwriters, Banastre Tarleton and Rocket Kirchner, have recently released records. Here, now, a review of each effort:

Banastre Tarleton Band, "About Face" Tarleton, a prolific singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, has released more than 30 albums as a solo artist and bandleader. His latest is a largely buoyant set that derives its sonic and genetic material from the sounds of early rock 'n' roll and charismatic '70s folk-pop a la Don McLean and Bread.

Tarleton and a skilled supporting cast quickly establish the album's through line. The opening track might be called "Cloudy Day," but the record is marked by unclouded pop vistas and numerous instances of melodic guitar-and-piano counterpoint. Toward that end, early tracks such as "Love of My Heart" and "She's A Memory" shine especially bright; the former is a sweetly tempered ditty that finds Tarleton waxing poetic over a gliding, piano-led groove. The latter is built on a bed of forward-moving acoustic guitars and surprising undercurrents of percussion.

"I'm Free (Tomorrow I Sail)" achieves the sort of up-tempo, liberated feel its name might suggest: A bouncy groove, largely built on Tarleton's piano and organ work, is augmented and complemented by lovely acoustic guitar work traded between him and Noah Spaeder. Keyboard passages that vacillate between sounding practically baroque and positively Beatle-esque initiate the quirky, ultimately intriguing "The Rock 'N' Roller." On that song's heels, Tarleton does his best Tom Petty on the sun-kissed, groovy "Killer Bee."

Curious sequencing choices mar what would otherwise be a seamless affair. Tarleton positions two live tracks, including a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and an overly perky instrumental at the album's end. The move disrupts hard-won continuity and takes the listener out of the record a bit. Similarly, an itchy trigger finger at the controls makes for uneven production value. When Tarleton's reedy tenor is allowed to ring out loud and clear, it proves a uniquely compelling instrument. All too often, though, his voice is buried under effects and processing, swapping warts-and-all authenticity for shinier artifice and stripping the record of some of its potential emotional impact. In total, however, Tarleton has made a very pleasant end-of-summer record.

Reach Aarik Danielsen at 573-815-1731 or e-mail ajdanielsen@columbiatribune.com.
Copyright 2012 Columbia Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
This article was published on page C3 of the Sunday, September 2, 2012 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune.

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