Monday, August 19, 2013

CD Review: Wells the Traveler – One for the Dreamers

Wells the Traveler – One for the Dreamers

Self Release

www.wellsthetraveler.com

14 tracks / 47:42

Much of the music I hear is derivative of something else, so sometimes it feels like there is not very much new material out there. Often times I end up relating the albums I review to something that somebody already came up with (usually Robin Trower or Muddy Waters, strangely enough). Well, Danny McGaw has thrown me for a loop and put together a diverse crew to create something truly unique with his new band, Wells the Traveler.

Danny is from Manchester, England where his professional football career was cut short by injury at the age of 18. This is when he started his music career in earnest, eventually moving to the U.S. with a stop in Santa Monica where he played shows and sold his own CDs, and then on to his final destination of Kansas City about five years ago. He started his own studio there and over time has managed to thrive as a full-time musician, which is a tough road to follow.

Wells the Traveler includes five like-minded souls, including Dan Hines on bass, Chad Brothers on guitar, Jason Jones on drums (and guitars, accordion, keys, and sax), and Mike West (also from Manchester) on banjo, mandolin and guitars. Besides contributing his fine picking, West also took on the role of producer for this project. McGaw contributes guitars, piano, and percussion. He also takes on the primary vocal role, although it looks like everybody contributes their voices throughout their debut album, One for the Dreamers.

One for the Dreamers includes 14 original tracks, all written by Danny McGaw. These songs were recorded live at Mike West’s 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor studio in Lawrence, Kansas. As these are polished musicians, the material is not as raw as you might think, and it is mastered well so it sounds good while still capturing the energy and feeling of their live show.

“Can You Feel the Rain” is the opening track, and it starts out with pretty acoustic guitar and mandolin picking with a little kick drum and toms thrown in. From there, it builds as the lyrics enter and the vocal harmonies combine with electric guitars to make for a neat roots/rock song. There is a complex texture to this music, and the musicians have the ability to pull it off. The lyrics are very personal, and Danny’s voice has the emotion to captivate and pull the listener in.

The thing that strikes me most about this track (and all the others, too) is the maturity of McGaw’s songwriting. His choice of words is poetic, and the imagery he uses completes a complex picture in every song while still maintaining a very personal and intimate feel. Danny has recorded and released nine other CDs, so I should expect this, but his material really stands out, particularly when it is held up against much of the other new music I listen to.

The next track up is a neat bridge, “Turkish Café,” which is a half minute of percussion. I don’t know for sure, but this sounds like a soundbite that came up during the recording sessions, and they decided to put it into the album to help maintain the vibe. There is a second interlude, “Jones’ Lament” about half way through the album which is 30 seconds of piano that fills the gap between “Thursday Afternoon” and “Stand Up Straight.”

“Thursday Afternoon” is a folk rock song with a jazz break – this sounds weird when I put it down on paper, but it works when you listen to it. Jones’ drums and the percussion hold all of this together as the mood and tempo change throughout. “Stand Up Straight” uses its anthemic chorus and harder electric guitar sounds to help describe the feelings of a man who is trying to get his act back together again -- “I gotta find a way to be myself again.“ Amen, brother.

There is not enough space hear to describe all of the songs on the disc, but believe me when I say that each of them has its own sound and voice. The album finishes up with “I Wish You Well,” which has a lot going for it. Its message is a great sentiment that contrasts the heaviness of daily life with hope for the future. Musically it also has a multitude of neat components, including some country picking, doubled horn / whistling lines, and a driving beat with some slick tempo changes. This is a strong track and was a great choice to bring this project to a close.

This is a very good album with not a single clunker to be found. This hybrid of English rock and American folk music has a unique sound and feel, and you really have to give it a listen.

The One for the Dreamers release party will be on Friday, August 23 at the Brick in Kansas City, Missouri. The album will be available for sale in early September directly from their website as a download, or they can mail you a copy. Also, if you are in the Kansas City Area, be sure to check out Wells the Traveler’s website or Facebook page so you check out their schedule. As you will find out from this album, their live show is not to be missed!

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