In-box follies: The postman brings a winner


The HooK: MUSIC REVIEW- In-box follies: The postman brings a winner

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Holiday 36

MUSIC REVIEW- In-box follies: The postman brings a winner

Published June 30, 2005 in issue 0426 of the Hook

* James McLaughlin, producer: Sesshin (Mountainside Records)

* William Walter & Co.: untitled (promo EP)


One of the perks of being a music writer is the amount of new music you get. I judge my weeks by how much good music rolls my way. This week has been pretty good...

The first disk I stumbled upon is a magical offering I feel privileged to be one of the first to hear. Sesshin is pure down-tempo ecstasy. Produced entirely by James McLaughlin at his Mountainside Studios, Sesshin is the best takes from endless jam sessions there.

While Sesshin is smooth, and it is jazz, I hesitate to call it "smooth jazz," the overproduced, reverb-heavy, synthetic drumming garbage played late at night on most public radio stations. Sesshin is smooth in the classic, dark-speakeasy, cigarette-in-mouth, too-cool-for-school way.

McLaughlin plays the drums, laying down the backbeat for some of the town's finest youngsters and veterans. Jesse Harper (guitar), Darrell Muller (bass), and Daniel Clarke (keyboards) are the backbone. Guests include JC Kuhl on sax and John D'earth on trumpet. Special kudos to Andy Thacker, who shows how to work a mandolin into the music the one and only way it should be done.

Sesshin is a one-time offering showcasing the wide range of Charlottesville's musical talent. They have a gig scheduled for next month at the Gravity Lounge. I suggest that you do not miss the show.

After bingeing on Sesshin, I stumbled across a recording distributed by William Walter & Co. Now, back in the day, I said this dude had star power and an on-point pop-singer songwriter vibe.

I'm glad to say I still believe that after listening to his 14-track prelude-to-an-actual-album. The CD itself is probably the longest EP leading up to an album I've ever seen. But it's worth listening to the mix of studio and live recordings to get the feel of what this guy is gonna drop on you in a few months.

William Walter & Co have been playing around the 'ville for years. Some of the out-take tracks are present on this long-playing EP. One gets the sense that Walter has lost the passion for his tunes (some of which were written years ago). His ensemble, which changes members on occasion, do a good job of providing a solid backdrop for his vivid lyrical imagery and soothing vocals.

The best part about the disk is the little errors present here and there on the live recordings. Walter tends to write a very tightly structured song, and he also has a tendency to perform his music with robotic accuracy. On this EP (available at his live performances free of charge), a human side shines through and makes his music tangible to commoner like me.

Overall, it's been a good week for local recordings. If I don't get something sweet in my mailbox soon, next week will pale in comparison.



2nd st nw . charlottesville va 22902 . 434.295.8700 . fax

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