Santa Fe musicians are releasing new albums all the time, even as the CD
goes the way of the dodo. Rather than continue to let the discs pile up
on the floors and in the cabinets of the SFR office, I figured it was
time to listen to a few.
Crown of Coal by Sean Healen
On Crown of Coal, singer-songwriter Sean Healen has narrowed his prolific output to eight excellent tracks that run the gamut from emotional balladry to upbeat country numbers. With help from Grammy Award-winning producer Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris), Crown is a short yet sweet cross-section of the very best of Healen. The album has a complex and rich Leonard Cohen-meets-John Lennon sort of thing going on. Healen’s stirring baritone has never sounded better and, thanks to added depth provided by Burn’s piano and guitar work, Healen’s songs enter epic territory. For new and old fans alike, Coal draws listeners in from the first few seconds and remains exceptional throughout. Definitely pick this up as soon as possible.
Standout track: “Towtruck”
The Children of Avalon by Michael Clay Mills
Michael Clay Mills’ latest release, The Children of Avalon, may hit the spot musically, but lyrical hit-and-misses and the lack of a unified theme or feel prevent the album from reaching greatness. There are charming moments found here and there, but Children is all over the place. Just when you think you’ve got an Americana or country album, ’50s-esque rock or sci-fi themes cause confusion. (I can only assume Mills’ “2045” is an homage to pop duo Zager & Evans’ dystopian 1968 hit “In the Year 2525.”) By layering multiple guitar and vocal tracks, Mills has shown he can harmonize capably and shred with the best of them, and a few moments of haunting piano work will surely stick in your head. Sadly, I just can’t shake the thought that Mills simply collected whatever songs he had lying around, rather than attempt to make a cohesive record.
Standout track: “Careless Arrow”
Ahrzetta, Chunky & the Dark Eyes by Terry Diers
In melding New Orleans funk, zydeco, blues and jazz, local musician Terry Diers has made the perfect albumfor baby boomers. Yes, technically, the album is fun, and there are more strings, horns, keys and harmonicas than you will find in a music store. Yes, Diers is a monster of a musician and has composed 14 songs that seem to nail exactly what he was going for. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of thing anyone under the age of 45 is going to put on in the car or at a party. Ahrzetta is the poster album for the aging Santa Fe music scene. I’m sure plenty of older people will pick this album up and play it for their friends. However, if you’re looking for something original or the least bit groundbreaking, this ain’t it. Even so, Diers has managed to create a perfectly pleasant series of songs that are exactly what fans of these styles are looking for.
Standout track: “Magnolia Motel”
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