Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“European folk is arguably the oldest style around today. Bands of the 1960s and 70s like Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention modernized the art, but they’re material was influenced by lore and poetry dating back centuries in the annals of UK history. Although you might expect such a band to have many members, in the case of Lehto & Wright, the band is simply a trio. Even so, they’ve crafted some fantastic pieces with their newest LP, Children’s Songs”.
“The Minneapolis, MN based duo of Steven Lehto and John Wright have a wide array of influences, ranging anywhere from the aforementioned progressive folk pioneers to King Crimson, Miles Davis, and Richard Thompson. Collectively, their backgrounds include jazz, blues, fusion, pop, Latin and rock. Joining them is Matt Jacobs on drums and percussion, and his background is similar. The trio has only put four songs on Children’s Songs, but its hour long runtime is quite enjoyable” (Source: Official Website, 2010).
1. Wasn’t That a Time – Nice opening song, kicked off with drums, bass, and acoustic/ electric guitar. Original melodies and vocals with memories of Jethro Tull and the style of rock that used to dominate back in the 1970s. An homage to Valley Forge, one of the toughest winter’s of the American Revolution. A nice refresher putting an American history twist on the folk sound of that era.
2. The Broomfield Hill – Fender bass, electric and classical guitar with drum support about a traditional European folk tale ballad. The instrumental explorations that fill this song provide power and character to the journey. Hard to pinpoint that vocal style, but I know I’ve heard it before, but not exactly the same as anyone else.
3. Children’s Songs – A 32 minute epic starting with interesting an English sounding vocal round, followed by a children’s musical box toy sound. This one combines some of the most varied artists you can imagine. Everything from Chick Corea, John Coltraine to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. An interesting amalgamation of sounds follows the Rings of London Town opening. Mandolin, bass, lap steel, singing bowls, drums and acoustic and electric guitars mixed together creating a driving procession of sound. Nice everyday relaxing music to enjoy. The acoustic and mandolin are wonderful, calm meditating sounds which really fill the soundscape well. There is a sound of rain or maybe a waterfall. The end closes with Led Zeppelin’s familiar Rain Song, which was the highlight for me.
4. Betsy Bell and Mary Gray – This over eighteen minute epic begins with acapella vocals which turn into a nice round with the title characters names being repeated. Then the twelve string guitars, high string, slide and electrics take over along with the acoustic guitars and drum support. Another beautiful misty mountain kinda song to relax and look out the window at a quiet rain or snow fall. Wonderful music to read, think or dream about the future or past.
Included with my version of the Children’s Songs CD was a DVD of a live, in the studio interview with the band celebrating their ten years together. There are some video clips of the recording process, including a portion of their rendition of the traditional folk song Shenandoah.
I also received a sampler of three other songs the band recorded on a separate CD.
a. East Virginia Blues – A very cool instrumental opening with great dynamic bass sounds and chimes. We get some bluesy vocals before the song moves into a long progression of mandolin, guitar and drums. Very nice.
b. Ten Long Years – Cool rocking song with a story behind it. The guitar and the drums are much harder and this song is a great contrast to the rest of the album. The cool instrumental jams in between the opening and closing make this one very interesting and fun to listen to.
c. Ye Mariners All – Beautiful rendition of this Fairport Convention classic. The acoustic, mandolin, percussion sounds and soft drum work is wonderful. The electric guitar solo which comes in around the middle is cool. Lifts the volume and intensity perfectly at the peak. Brings back memories of Heart’s Dream of the Archer and the Battle of Evermore without the power. Again, I just wish it never ended.
Rating: 8/10 – A very nice drift back to a time when we had more time to just sit back and listen to music. This is a wonderful return to that age. Not something everyone has enough time for any more, but those that do will really appreciate the care and effort that went into producing this album. Even though the epic Children’s Songs is 32 minutes, I could have listened to it for 60 minutes.
Reviewed by Prof on September 16th, 2010