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CD REVIEW: Andy Baker - Down
By Chip Withrow - 04/16/2008 - 02:16 PM EDT

Artist: Andy Baker
Album: Down
Genre: Folk/Rock
Sounds Like: Goo Goo Dolls, Gin Blossoms
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Icarus Knows, September Mind, Push, I Wish You Rain
CD Review: This uplifting, refreshing album is perfect listening for a crisp spring day such as this. It’s also perked me up from mid-afternoon exhaustion, and it’s been the soundtrack to my drive to the local minor league baseball stadium. Andy Baker’s folk rock gem Down is just a delightful listen anywhere.

A burbling synth opens this disc, a cool and unusual lead-in to the vibrant title cut’s bright, chiming guitars and singalong-worthy chorus. The image-rich “Almena Road” is infectiously pulsing, urged on by Baker’s plucky banjo and Lauran Bittinger’s cheery accordion.

The wistful, lilting “Origami Heart” offers a wonderful message: “And love pulls together what loss tears apart/And this is the beauty of an origami heart.” David Mosher’s violin flutters around Baker’s prettily picked acoustic guitar, and Baker’s vocal is by turns intimate and exuberant.

“Icarus Knows” is a fantastic number – like on “Down,” Baker explores the synth/acoustic contrast. “Icarus” is a big and bold affirmation of how falling in love is crazy and scary, but totally worth it. Another favorite of mine is the bopping pop rocker “Push,” dedicated to a couple of newlyweds. Baker is a tasteful, subtly nifty guitarist, and his playing shines on “Push.” “I Wish You Rain” is another spirit-raising winner, and Baker nails a rocking guitar solo – rich organ fills add color to this and several other tracks.

“September Mind” has a Goo Goo Dolls-meet-John Denver vibe that I find appealing. I’ve been in Florida for four years now, but this song makes me remember and appreciate the bittersweetness of autumn. Another slower tune, “Don’t Know Why” is a lyrically creative contemplation on the mysteries of life and death.

Down closes gently with “Sleep On It Tonight,” an elegant end to a fine set of Andy Baker’s soul-affirming, original music.

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