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The Graham Album Review #2134

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Anthony Arya: Circles and the Flames

(Independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/26/2022)

Each generation tends to have its own distinct music styles – in fact I think that each generation deserves its own style, something culturally and chronologically relevant to the circumstances of its mostly youthful creators. And of course, there is that age-old tendency of each generation to have music that drives their parents crazy. But it seems in recent years, retro has been growing as a thing, as they say, and there are remarkably many young musicians who create music in styles that achieved popularity long before they were born, with many doing a very good job at it.

Recently, we reviewed an album by Nolen Sellwood, a teenager who can evoke the music of the late British artist Nick Drake from the late 1960s and early 1970s. This week, we another good example of a singer-songwriter barely into his twenties who has just released his third album, in an appealing folk-rock style that could have emerged any time from the late 60s on. His name is Anthony Arya, and his new release is called Circles and the Flames.

Anthony Arya is from Santa Cruz, in Northern California. He first attracted attention in 2018 by appearing on the NBC-TV show “The Voice” at age 15. He released his first album shortly thereafter. He followed that up in 2020 with his second release called The Road. At around the same time, he won a US Department of Education Presidential Scholar in the Arts award, one of 20 high-school seniors to receive such an award.

Arya has a been performing regularly throughout the San Francisco Bay area, and is now out with Circles and the Flames. And like its predecessor, the album is a worthwhile collection of high quality songs, done in a folk-rock context. Most them show their acoustic guitar basis, but there is a modest rock band providing the accompaniment. Arya is a lyricist who takes his cues from the poetic folkies of the past in terms of their measured ambiguity. He’s a thoroughly likable vocalist with an easy-going style, that fits into both the more folk oriented material as well as the rock tunes.

Opening is a song called Jaded Rust, in a classic folk-influenced singer-songwriter style. Like many of Arya’s songs, it forms a narrative about character. <<>>

Arya occasionally gets bluesy on the album. An example is The Wheel which also evokes 1970s Southern Rock. <<>>

Another song that is the story of a character is Ballad of Eugene which was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition in the Americana category. It’s nicely done on the album. <<>>

More laid-back in sound is Smoke and Wind with rather cryptic but intriguing lyrics. <<>>

A song called Till I See You Again takes up the subject of parting, and yet is given a kind of upbeat folky sound. <<>>

More toward the rock side of things is L.A. Boy, another of Arya’s compositions about the exploits of a character. <<>>

One of the more interesting sets of lyrics comes on Ode to Absolam, which may reference the Biblical character of the son who rebels from his father, though in a rather oblique way. <<>>

The album ends with piece called 2020 which is a sort of an exhortation do the right things, despite circumstances. <<>>

Anthony Arya’s new third album, Circles and the Flames is a satisfying, thoroughly well-done recording in the classic folk-rock singer-songwriter style, by a young artist who has already demonstrated his abundant talent going back to age 15. The songs are intelligent and tasteful, the musical backing and arrangements are in classic form, and the album fits together coherently.

Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A,” with good clarity, a mix that keeps the focus where it should be, and when some minor studio effects are used, they enhance the songs.

Once again, it’s nice to see how cross-generational music can be, with people like Anthony Arya keeping the folkie genre infused with proverbial new blood.

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