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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
Bill Binkelman is a long-time icon in the industry.
Other reviews from Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman:
  Origin by Elise Lebec, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 9/21/2017
  What We Hold Dear by Timothy Wenzel, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 7/7/2017
  Rear View by Perpetual Motion, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 7/6/2017
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When the Sea Lets Go
By Vin Downes
Label: Riverwide Records
Released 1/3/2017
When the Sea Lets Go tracks
1. Entwined and Lost
2. Evening in Berkeley
3. Morning Red
4. Dust and Drag
5. Just Before You Leave
6. Everything Ahead
7. When the Sea Lets Go
8. Streets of Sunday
9. The Right Words Are Simple
10. All You Left Behind
VIN DOWNES - when the sea lets go
With all the great music I have reviewed over these 20 years, one subgenre has become a personal favorite for me, and that is acoustic guitar instrumental music. In that small (compared to, e.g. solo piano) category, some of my favorite musicians can be found as well (obviously). They all offer up variations of autumnal, reflective tone poems, though each artist has a unique and distinct "voice" differentiating themselves. Included in this august group is Vin Downes, as talented a fingerstyle guitar player as there exists today. He is also a heckuva nice guy (I had the pleasure to meet him and his family at the Zone Music Reporter New Orleans event one year).

The evocatively titled when the sea lets go (with its equally pensive cover art) is his most recent work and it’s a stunningly beautiful example of that autumnal style of guitar music, the type that seems to fit hand-in-glove with trees shedding their red/gold leaves in mild breezes under skies that blend grey clouds with small patches of sunlight streaming through. The air is brisk with a light chill, and a flock of geese flees south overhead. Here is an album that I long for when I hit the back country highways of Minnesota and Wisconsin when we take our fall road trips. The relaxed tempo of pieces such as “everything ahead” are perfect for traversing gently rolling hills past farms where the crops are long-since harvested and fields plowed under for the winter freeze. The warm yet pensive title track evokes the isolation of driving through a small town in the evening, with only a few lights on in the windows of homes, and perhaps, if one is lucky, the corner café is still open and serving coffee.

Here’s a hint to new readers of my reviews. When I start to wax poetically on images that an artist’s music creates in my mind’s eye, it tells you how special the artist’s music is to me. Vin Downes’ music has that effect on me. It’s like a soft, gentle “gut punch” to my heart and soul, if that makes any sense. I find that the soft melancholy and tenderness of “just before you leave,” and “all you left behind,” touch me in ways difficult to describe adequately except to say they help me journey inward even as I am driving down the aforementioned country highways.

when the sea lets go is a solo guitar effort with the exceptions being Michael Manring’s bass on “dust and drag” and Tom Eaton (the man of many talents) playing piano on “streets of sunday.” The former has a slight bump up in tempo (and I mean slight) as well as a subtle lightening of mood as well - not what I would say is cheerful, but perhaps worthy of a sly grin and soft smile, perhaps when greeting a lifetime friend whom you haven’t seen a long while. The latter features a soft sepia-toned atmosphere, a relaxed tempo but noticeably more rhythmic than many of the others on the album. The tune also showcases some of Downes’ more adroit fingerstyle technique as his fingers slide up and down the fretboard with apparent ease. Eaton’s piano at the end of the track remind me, and this may seem more than a little cryptic and out of left field, of the piano playing on the Mary Chapin Carpenter song “I Am A Town.” No, I have no idea where that comparison came from either! But since that is one of my favorite songs of all time (i.e. “I Am A Town”), it should be considered complimentary.

when the sea lets go is Downes’ follow-up to unlike the stars and it proves that the latter was just the tip of this guitarist’s talent. Vin Downes’ music deserves to be in every acoustic guitar lover’s collection. If you haven’t acted on that assessment yet, may I quote a line from Jean-Luc Picard “Make it so!” You will be glad you did.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 9/22/2017
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