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CD REVIEW: Joe Pawelek - Alaska Afternoon
By Cyrus Rhodes - 10/24/2011 - 04:57 PM EDT

Artist: Joe Pawelek
Album: Alaska Afternoon
Label: Stanley Bridge Productions
Genre: Acoustic Folk/Rock
Sounds Like: John Denver, John Prine, Lyle Lovett
Technical Grade: 5/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 5/10
Commercial Value: 6/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: Breathe, Dog Blues, Eagle
Weakness: Dry production, lacks musical depth and dynamic, repetitive catalogue, Lackluster sound quality
CD Review:

Singer/Songwriter Joe Pawelek releases his debut collection of music entitled Alaska Afternoon in 2011. Pawelek hails from the rugged state of Alaska and in his own words he describes his music perfectly. “My songs are about traveling forward, specifically in my own mind, but also with the people and forces that push me towards my goals.”

The CD gently takes flight with “Wyoming” a heartfelt acoustic intro piece that serves up solitary vocal delivery from Pawelek that is passionate, up front and very personal. Track 2 “Juneau” keeps things moving along the intimate path with solitary acoustic guitar ambiance with Pawelek’s vocal passion front and center. This track along with Track 3 “Eagle” are both striking pieces that flow and ebb their way through to emotional fruition. Track 2 is quite dynamic in the sense that there are several subtle time changes throughout the piece. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic John Denver and John Prine. The actual musical format is very intimate - no doubt a close, personal snapshot of the artist himself. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the spirit of life itself.  Overall the catalog is extremely earthy and acoustic – with nothing more than a flute, an acoustic guitar and a voice occupying the sonic space. The acoustic guitar playing abilities from Pawetek are impressive, conservative and in the pocket. Lyrical content is straight from the heart. From passionate “Motion” to captivating “Breathe” to dynamic “Dog Blues” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Set Sail” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

Earthy type productions such as this create ample opportunities for these kinds of "pin drop" moments for both musicians and singers out there to show what they are capable of. When done right - will blow you right out of your chair, or take your breath away.  When not done right - will sound empty and and somewhat repetitive. No doubt more work is required from to fill this sonic space effectively, thus keeping the attention span of the listener in check. Pawetek is on the right track with these songs as they are both solitary, passionate and striking, but there are risks you take when delivering a bare bones musical performance such as this. You better hold your own well within the sonic space when the musical spotlight is yours. It’s fair to say more musical depth is needed to compensate. I can’t help but wonder what some of these songs would sound like with other musical elements behind them. Instruments such as a drums, pedal steel, mandolin, fiddles, stand up bass, cello, piano, banjo, Hammond Organ, Harmonica and percussion would add a much needed musical dimension to the catalog. Due to lack of musical depth the production goes down extremely dry. Some of the songs are a bit winded and repetitive. All pieces over 4 minutes in length will drag you to the finish line, even at a coffee house. Again it takes an amazing amount of talent and skill to deliver a bare bones musical production effectively. Hats off to Pawelek for taking this on, but in the end of the day, this CD just sounds like it's missing something. Finally - the overall sound quality of the music itself is somewhat lacking when compared to other Independent productions within the genera.

Overall Alaska Afternoon by Joe Pawelek is a striking and very compelling musical production. It's strong suit is its passion, overall consistency and lyrical wisdom. Alaska Afternoon will work best on days you want a delicate acoustic sound to fill your atmosphere. Make no bones about it folks; It took raw passion to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Pawelek is there is no attempt to hide how he feels - in a very free and liberating way. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Pawelek is one of those artists. If I could say anything to Pawelek right now it would be – find yourself a local band that can add a bit more musical flavor to your next musical production. This can be done without losing the solitary musical foundation. Do this and it’s fair to say your next release will    

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