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Jared Feinman: Love Is an Obstacle
by George Graham
(West of Philly Records as broadcast on WVIA-FM 7/7/2021)
The classic image of a singer-songwriter is that of the artist with an acoustic guitar strumming and performing original material. But there are plenty of keyboard playing practitioners of the art, going back to Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino, on through Randy Newman, Elton John, Carole King and Laura Nyro to more contemporary artists like Ben Folds, Jamie Cullum and Norah Jones.
This week we have a pianist singer-songwriter who has just released a musically interesting debut recording, Jared Feinman and his album is called Love Is an Obstacle.
Philadelphia area resident Jared Feinman has been playing piano from a very early age, and began classical piano studies at age six, and later under the mentorship of jazz pianist Jimmie Amadie.
Career-wise, he decided to head toward the financial security of a business major in college, but near graduation, decided that music was his passion after all, and won admission to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, he gravitated toward singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman, while broadening his musical horizons on his piano playing, and learning orchestrations.
For his debut album, Feinman collaborated with, he says, musicians from around the country. The album was primarily recorded in Boston, and it’s wide-ranging stylistically and in terms of instrumentation. Feinman does all his own arranging and production, with musical settings ranging from alone at the piano, to large orchestrations with a full complement of strings and horns. His songs tend to be personal and often metaphorical, taking his clues from the 70s era singer-songwriters he looks up to.
Opening is a piece called Butterflies and Blues which has appropriate blues influence. It considers situations in which one might get the butterflies of anxiety. <<>>
The album is arranged in four “clusters” of songs. In the first cluster after the opening track is Inside a Reverie, for which there is an instrumental orchestral prelude, which makes for quite a contrast from the blues influence of the previous track. <<>>
The body of the song Reverie deals with the loss of someone who was close, while continuing with the large ensemble. <<>>
The song called 88 was inspired by a bunch of pianos that were set up around Boston for anyone to play. And it considers the songwriter’s own connection to the instrument. <<>>
The title track Love Is an Obstacle opens the second “cluster” of songs, and as its title suggests, its about a complicated relationship. <<>>
Feinman created a kind of anthemic composition called (Let’s Sing for) Love and Be Free, and also created a foundation funded by what profits the song generates, to help artists and venues in Philadelphia affected the pandemic. <<>> The piece grows to a crescendo with a Gospel style choir. It does get a little bombastic. <<>>
One of the rockier tracks is Wait for the Judge which is one of the more interesting songs lyrically. For me, it’s one of the highlights of the album. <<>>
The Gospel choir makes another appearance on The Sinner’s Last Song another story of a- complicated relationship. <<>>
The album closes with an instrumental piece for the strings called Some Final Thoughts. It takes a melancholy direction. <<>>
Pianist-singer-songwriters often bring a different perspective to the genre than their guitar-playing brethren. Jared Feinman is a good example of that. Love Is an Obstacle is an impressive debut album that is lyrically thoughtful and draws on different influences from blues to classical in the dozen tracks on this edifying recording. The Philadelphia-area artist draws on musicians from several locations, including his old stomping ground in Boston, where much of the album was recorded. While he cites artists like Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell as influences, he has developed his own distinctive musical fingerprint, which is marked by his eclecticism.
Our grade for sound quality is an A-minus. Mixed by veteran studio man Frank Filipetti, known for his work with James Taylor and the Bangles, the recording is one of a rare few with a decently wide dynamic range. Unfortunately the lead vocals are not very cleanly recorded.
The world of singer-songwriters is certainly well-populated. So sometimes it’s hard to find something new and distinctive. Jared Feinman’s new release shows that the genre remains creatively active in the right hands.
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