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CD REVIEW:Rick Speyer
By James Grimes - 01/15/2004 - 06:31 PM EST

Artist: Rick Speyer
CD Review: Rick Speyer has assembled a group of talented musicians from the Toronto folk scene to record an album of fifteen original songs for his first independent release, Harmony Road. The songs are deeply personal stories and observations in the vain of many a folksinger before him, artists who reflect their life and times in a uniquely Canadian way.

Harmony Road has the sound of a man bearing his soul and celebrating the important things in life, love, friendship and music. Blues, Country, Gospel and old time Nashville, all are offered with a generous dose to satisfy the short attention span of any listener. There is nothing offensive about this record, its production is solid and the playing and the songwriting has a sincere gentle quality. Rick has a soothing voice, and the talent to switch it from varying musical styles with out it losing its sincerity. I was left wanting a little more grit and edginess, as some of the tracks miss an opportunity to really let loose. Glory Be, I felt the strongest track on the record, would really groove with a little more guts. Having said that, the songwriting and vocals have that light, feel good optimistic sound, so the clear and simplistic recording and instrumentation makes for a good fit.

In the fine tradition of the folk community Harmony Road has no shortage of willing participants to add to the communal feel of the record. Engineer/musician Jason Laprade, of Crystal Clear Sound, who recorded the album, is all over the record on guitar and percussion, and Dave Gallagher from Acoustic Harvest who plays mandolin and harmonica are just two of many who lend a hand.

Music In the kitchen, the first track, allows the listener to settle gently into a world where music is played into the wee hours of the morning and the coffee is always hot. Remembrance Day, Track 5, is an ode to fallen war heroes and could well be an anthem come Nov 11th,and should be plugged on that bases. Other tracks of note are Rockíní Roll Years, a fifties style toe tapping tribute to musical legends and Heaven, a country inspired number with some fine dobro and fiddle playing.

Rick Speyer has created a sweet personal record, rather like a trip down memory lane, but for others to share in that memory it has to reach an audience, so the show must go on the road. Harmony Road is preaching to the converted, though the converted are active music listeners who attend festivals and folk jamborees and buy records. These songs could fit into any folk festival program. As a first independent release, Harmony Road has an endearing quality, itís a heartfelt collaboration amongst friends and musicians who play solely for the love of music, and that is as fine an endorsement as one can give.

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