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CD Reviews - January 2019



BO MOORE & FRIENDS – A JOHNSTOWN CHRISTMAS – VOLUME II (no label) Following the success of the first A Johnstown Christmas compilation CD last holiday season, organizers Bo Moore and Chip Minemeyer have come up with the first sequel. A Johnstown Christmas – Volume II compiles 20 Christmas season songs from the Johnstown area and community, blending renditions of time-tested holiday season favorites and original Christmas song compositions, and spanning a multitude of musical flavors. Like the initial album, proceeds from sales of this CD go toward the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat newspaper’s Santa Fund, which provides gifts to more than 1,000 area children in need during the holiday season. Another similarity between albums is that former NBC-TV The Voice finalist Josh Gallagher has donated another Christmas song to this album as well, this year performing a folksy and solemn rendition of “Away in a Manger.” Other returning performers on this season’s compilation include Walt and Jackie – the duo of Walt Churchey and Jackie Kopco – with their 2013 song of homecoming hope for loved ones serving in the military, “Another Christmas.” The Mutual FUN Society also returns with their playful and tongue-in-cheek “A Question for Santa,” and ‘host’ and organizer Bo Moore appears with his Moore Brothers on two songs – “Santa Stuck on 219 Blues” (anyone who has driven on Route 219 during the winter season can relate to this) with Ken Deater, and “A Cold December Night” with guest Tony Arcuri. Jazz In Your Face returns with “Comfort and Joy,” their boisterous take on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Other highlights include Smooth Sound’s jazzy, soulful and tasty “Holiday Wishes,” Ribbon Grass singer Terri O’Leary’s tranquil rendition of “O Holy Night,” the child-generated “Jingle” from Inclined To Sing, Children’s Choruses of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Somerset County bluegrass artist Cindy G’s uplifting “Raise Your Voices,” Dylin Snedden’s witty “Santa, Please Send Me Cash,” and Michael James Facciani’s powerful and operatic voice on the album closer, “Ave Maria,” plus contributions from Johnny Bayush (also the album’s digital engineer), Her Harmony, Kim King, Oakland United Methodist Church Praise Band, Crucified Worship, Johnstown Symphony Youth Orchestra, Ava Zucco and Community Strings of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. This album is nicely arranged, with joyful and playful numbers juxtaposed with tranquil, solemn and more orchestrated numbers. And with its even wider range of contributions from throughout the Johnstown musical community, Volume II feels more like an entire community effort. A Johnstown Christmas – Volume II is a delightful listen from start to finish, and easily makes for pleasant listening while trimming the tree, hanging the Christmas lights or opening gifts on Christmas morning. And it benefits a great cause. (The CD can be obtained at the Tribune-Democrat offices and BottleWorks Ethnic Arts Center in Johnstown, or online at www.tribdem.com.)


JEFF FETTERMAN – 9 MILES TO NOWHERE (no label) Erie’s Jeff Fetterman first took interest in music at age 5 after watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar on TV. Although he first wanted to play drums, his parents’ resistance steered him toward the guitar. The guitar has served Jeff and his self-named band well; they have opened for touring national acts, won Best Blues Band and Best Blues Album honors at the 2017 Rock Erie Music Awards, and became semi-finalists in the 2018 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Listening to Jeff’s latest album, 9 Miles to Nowhere, quickly shows why Jeff has risen in the blues-rock ranks. Jeff channels Texas blues and southern rock flavors into ten smoldering tracks. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd inform Jeff’s blues-rock swagger throughout the album, as he delivers blistering guitar work and a commanding vocal growl hinting at the late Danny Joe Brown (of Molly Hatchet fame). Flanking Jeff are his bandmates Ralph Reitinger III on bass and John McGuire on drums, plus guitarist Eric Brewer and backing singer/percussionist Judy Kessler. The songs are infectious, and follow familiar blues themes of love gone awry, hard living and dying, and evil around the bend. Jeff seeks a medic to cure his relationship anxieties on the hard-rocking, disc-opening shuffle “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” and he expresses frustration on the funk-tinged “Something Just Ain’t Right.” Jeff outruns evil on the dark and swamp-toned “Devil Knockin’ at My Door,” and lays down a tough, swaggering groove on “Early Grave.” Jeff showcases his guitar prowess on the slow burner “Brand New Day” and the slow blues of “Broken Hearted,” and generates some heated boogie on “Lover Man” and “Bad Feeling.” Jeff ends the album in a milder vein, via the doo-wop-flavored blues of “These Arms of Mine.” The performances are driven and inspired, as Jeff and his colleagues sink heart and intensity into their presentation. Recorded, mixed and mastered at GCR Audio in Buffalo, New York, and produced and engineered by Brad Lauchert, 9 Miles to Nowhere sounds full, balanced and tough, as Jeff and his band show their edge and swagger. This album shows that Jeff Fetterman is a blues-rocking force to be reckoned with; 9 Miles to Nowhere offers no-nonsense, full-throttled blues rock that deserves to be played loud and proud. (The CD can be obtained through Jeff Fetterman’s website, www.jefffetterman.com.)


BILL FERRELL – VARIOUS NOTES AT VARIOUS INTERVALS (no label) Longtime central PA musician Bill Ferrell has played guitar in several bands over the years, including Kyx and One Less Tear, and released an initial 2006 solo CD, A Biker’s Prayer. Bill now performs acoustically and has honed his fingerstyle guitar-playing talents, which he demonstrates on his latest all-instrumental album, Various Notes at Various Intervals. Through 11 tracks, Bill uses his guitar talents to weave acoustic tapestries that evoke various moods and themes. The songs are all authentic, single stereo track recordings with no layering, which further showcases Bill’s talents and attention to detail. Bill displays quite a variety here; showing a Mexican/Latin flair on “Un Baile Con El Diablo,” evoking steam engine furvor on “Fast Train to Hell,” and dabbling in Native American tribal tones on the catchy “Tomahawk.” Other compositions have local and personal ties; “Smoke Run Blues” is a folksy ode to Bill’s home turf, and the tranquil tones of “Oak Spring Serenade” suggest pleasant wine-tasting music at a local winery where you can see Bill perform. The disc’s final track, “Wendel’s Blues,” is a respectful homage to an area musical contemporary, the late Wendel Hullihen. Bill explores European folk tones with “Velada Romantica,” and fuses together distinctive takes on two gospel canons with “Amazing Grace/Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Bill’s performances are masterful, inspired and smoothly executed. The album sounds clear and full, allowing the depth and artistry of Bill’s guitar tones, skills and eloquent artistry shine through. For fans of skillful acoustic music, Bill Ferrell’s Various Notes at Various Intervals offers a pleasant, relaxing listen. (The album is available digitally on Spotify, iTunes and streaming services.)

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