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After the Harvest by Michael Kent Smith
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/21/2017
A blissful symbiosis of musical intellect
I adore uniqueness in music, something fresh new and exciting always wets the palette, and on this latest offering by Michael Kent Smith we have just that, originally inspired by music from the medieval period, this amazing multi-instrumentalist is about to take us on a journey as of yet unknown.
After The Harvest is about the wheel of life, we can celebrate after the harvest; we can sample the ‘Fruits Of Your Labor’, the very first track, but the following spring it must start all again. However what Michael Kent Smith has produced here on this piece, and with the instrumentation used, almost touches the hem of progressive rock at times and the narrative weaved into this arrangement is so picturesque and very alluring.
The acoustic nature of ‘Tapestry 1’ is warming and very ambient to flow with. Finger style guitar paves the way into a world of smooth tones and peaceful waving rich corn fields. One can hear the aged feel to the music; at times its energy reminds me of the old British folk outfit, the Amazing Blondel.
The sweet and gentle nature of ‘Konstantin Surveys His Lands’ has a little Jazz ethic about its construction, one must surely marvel at the level of expertise the artist shows on this truly wonderful composition. Technically this is one of the most amazing pieces I have heard for ages. There is a hint of minimalism in the construction too, that creates a unique brand of ambience to enjoy.
The short form flow of ‘Fourteen Generations’ jigs with a little Celtic magic and dances with the guitar, in a symbiosis of loving fun, and through this up-tempo arrangement, we can easily see the families enjoy the end of the harvest, telling tales of years gone by and September sunsets past.
‘The Veil’ creates its own musical pathway which we must follow with an open heart and mind, the swirling essence of this piece and its quiet refrains gift me a memory of an early October morning, as the sun began to burn off the mist from the lake, like a veil of vapour lifting and revealing another day of work ahead.
On ‘Sing Mother Earth’ I found something bathed in memory, but dappled in the sunlight of a late summer afternoon, this is a melody of reflection and of gratitude. One must applaud the musician, for with each and every brush stroke of tone, I can with ease picture such wonderful musical vistas.
The half way marker has now been reached and we come across a composition entitled ‘Peace Is Every Step’. Here we have a track that is so lovingly produced and played, that we can feel the brightness of its passion as it is performed with such an energetic style and pureness of spirit.
I enjoyed the pacey ‘Family Tree’ with a relish; the steady beat was almost like the ticking of a clock signifying perhaps the passing of the many generations on the Family Tree, the performance here was simply sublime and one that weaved a wonderful sense of movement into its construction.
As we move deeper into this time machine of an album we find a real gem called ‘Aucon Vont’. Here is a track steeped in history and played with a purpose and intent so filled with passion, but energies of reflection can also be found here in this quite emotive multi instrumental opus of perfection.
‘The Royal Chamber’ flows like a spring stream, its vigour can be found in the musician’s stylish and up-tempo performance, its lively nature has as certain essence of pomp and circumstance about its busy and bustling construction. Within this quite breath-taking moment of magic, one could even perhaps hear a hint of Mike Oldfield in the weave as well.
‘The Whole above Me’ had a real sense of mystery about its tone and had a slower and deliberate methodology about its progression; this would perhaps be the perfect music to listen to, whilst perhaps watching Michael Kent Smith manifest a piece of painted art. The gentle, but beautifully crafted work here is stunning, and to do it any justice one should listen multiple times.
When I see a track on an album about a Crow, I smile, apart from compositions about thunder or impending storms, Crows for some reason hold quite a lot of magic for me, and it came as no surprise to hear a slide used on the guitar to announce the landing and stretching of the wings of the mystical and clever Crow. ‘As The Crow Flies’ is exactly what it says on the can, and with a flick of its tail and a twitch of its head it is gone from the telegraph pole, as it shape shifts into the evening sky, to this, its very own soundtrack.
So, we have arrived at our penultimate offering and it’s called ‘Until Next Year – The Haymakers Dance’. I featured this very lively number on one of my shows and it got a lot of attention. This is a party track, a celebration of a job well done, so raise your flagons, celebrate the end of one cycle of life, and prepare for another.
Before we leave this realm however, the artist has one more gift to leave us with, it is called ‘The Noble Vine’. Let us sit and watch the last few grapes disappear from the foliage, and salute them for the wine that they will bring forth. The bell in this piece was a stroke of genius and added a whole new dimension into the layers of this last offering.
After the Harvest by Michael Kent Smith is easily the most unique album I have listened to, or written about for many years, the care and attention to detail in this album alone deserves applauding, but to make the past and present join together, in such a blissful symbiosis of musical intellect, is quite astoundingly brilliant, I believe that music never dies, it just matures.
After the Harvest is going to be one of those albums that you are just going to have to add to your collection, it’s a release that offers the listener something old and new at the same time, but with a freshness of musical spirit that will live on forever.
Rating: Excellent
Azul by Johannes Linstead
- posted by Gena on 11/21/2017

Johannes Linstead is foremost an incredible guitarist. On acoustic or electric he plays a smooth, fluid, fiery and gorgeous Latin-style that audiences love. But Linstead also is an extremely-talented melodic composer, producer, band-leader and concert performer. he once again shows off his talents on his new album, AZUL. If you want soft-and-slow new age music (with faint female wordless vocalizations in the background), check out “Surrender To Me” or “Moon Child.” For a world-fusion band sound with Cuban-style trumpet, try “Cha Cha Chu,” “Starlight” and “Friday Night at Babaluu.” He adds some Native wood flute on “Dance of the Shaman.” There is some appropriate accordion on “Hechicera” on which Linstead sings in Spanish. He also sings on one other composition, “Be My Girl,” which features some lovely guitar-work too. But perhaps the easiest-to-overlook-piece on the album is the last one, an instrumental version of that same tune, “Be My Girl,” which is absolutely lovely and piquant. Imagine a vacation in the tropics or a fiesta in any Latin country. That spirit of festivity, gaiety, frolicking fun-loving freedom is all contained in this music. Sit back, close your eyes and listen. You will enjoy this one from start to finish.
Rating: Excellent
Spring Begins by Muses9
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/14/2017
A most exciting release
Let’s take our first tentative steps through the album Spring Returns by Muses9, through the musical smoothness of the opening track Angel, the crafted chill out beat here would in fact go down pretty well in many of the Coffee shops here. Technically speaking this is a nicely worked piece, especially so if listening on headphones.
Spring Returns is a reminder of the varied hopes and aspirations of humanity, and as I sit and watch the day grow longer, we arrive at the next piece called Easy to Love. The Chill Out style maybe easy to produce, but to get that quality that inspires the listener to fall in love with it instantly, requires a certain attention to detail, and Muses9 have indeed achieved that, listen to this piece and I urge you to use your headphones, for an awesome swirling performance and experience. The impressive standard of production here is quite breath-taking.
How About, has an enticing percussive opening, partnered with a rhythmic bass line that brings our musical journey to the beaches of sensual bliss, however this is also one very empowering opus of deep sound and thought. The multi instrumentational nature of this piece is sublime and creates a perfect tempo to really feel the energy of its overall construction.
Sometimes we all find ourselves a little Lonely. Muses9 will now interpret that feeling of inner sadness with such a melodic fluency, that it manifests a bed of emotional creativity for us to weep upon. The use of the negative chord structure here has produced one of the finest songs off the album and certainly one of my favourites; the vocals on this piece were extremely moving, delicately performed, and danced a slow dance of loneliness with the added instrumentation contained within.
One of the lessons when producing a chill out ethic to a piece is not to push it or overdo it. Last year David Arkenstone produced a wonderful example of this genre, with Songs from the Aqua Lounge, and here Muses9 has manifested something very different for the listener.
Cat and Mouse is a wonderful example of trance, fused with a chilled beat and a little new age dropped into the recipe of eventual success. The trance dance style here reminds me very much of UK band Riven, but here Muses9 add so much more into the weave of this very cleverly created composition. As you listen you will notice the arrangement is packed with musical nuances that make this song extremely addictive to say the least.
We change direction slightly on the next offering called Maybe. The narrative suggests a moment of musical thought and reflection; this is also a very clever song, and dances with a percussive partner with ease. This is one of those tracks you could see becoming an anthem at gigs, one that the audience would be more than happy to join in the chorus with.
The constituency of the vocals have been a pleasure to listen to on the album thus far, and on More, the shortest piece off the release, one can hear that even more so, they seem to float around you on a bed of chiming synths, like petals from a daisy, on the winds of a warm summers day, dancing with sunlit shards of light along the way.
Another of my personal favourites was the penultimate piece called Prelude. The flowing and uplifting nature of the beginning was amazing, the synths created a lush and colourful narrative, to bring about an energy of inspiration to this quite beautiful instrumental starting point, then at the three minute marker, there was a truly sensual pause and some of the most angelic, but self-assured and confident vocals to drive us home, in what I rate to be the best song off the album. This is a true moment of genius from Muses9, a cinematic moment of magic.
We finish with the title track, and of course called Spring Begins, this is something to look forward to as we approach winter. This solo effort on vocals here is a masterful way to finish this mystical journey with Muses9, and by doing so, shows the class and professionalism that runs right through this exciting release.
Spring Begins is a rare album; it’s totally fresh and contains something for everyone. This album has been described by others as Groove and Chill Out and Sensual, yes it is all of those things, but if you listen multiple times, and I have, it is much, much more. This is an album that crosses musical genres, invents its own, and presents to the ever eager listener something new and utterly exhilarating. Spring Begins has to be the most exciting release of 2017 and probably one of the best produced too.
Rating: Excellent
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