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The Graham Weekly Album Review #1583

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Jake Armerding: Her
by George Graham

(Independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/13/2010)

A singer-songwriter writing and performing love songs. It's not exactly a very original concept, but it's a form which has proven to be timeless and almost inexhaustible for inspiration. This week we have a good example of a bunch of love songs sung by a folkie who proves that just because few tens of thousands of love songs have been written it doesn't mean that the well has become exhausted. It's Jake Armerding, whose new CD is called Her.

Jake Armerding is a second-generation musician. His father, Taylor Armerding is one of the founders of the highly regarded Boston area bluegrass band Northern Lights. Jake was started on Suzuki method violin at age 5, and studied classical violin through high school but he also joined his father's band at age 13, moving to bluegrass fiddle. While in college, he turned his attention to songwriting, and released first CD while still in school. In 2003, he released his first nationally-distributed CD, self-titled, which we featured on this album review series. Though calling Boston home, he spent time in Nashville at about the time of the CD called Jake Armerding, which also showed some of his bluegrass tendencies. The dual Boston-Nashville direction continued on his 2007 CD Walking on the World.

Recently, Armerding got married and moved to Minneapolis, and is apparently enjoying marital bliss, as this CD's title Her is obviously dedicated to his spouse. Armerding is recording independently now, and like increasing numbers of artists especially on the folk scene, he raised money to make the recording from his fans. He went back to Boston and hooked up with some old friends and his father again, and made this CD in which he is more the guitar-playing singer-songwriter than the multi-instrumentalist and often fiddle player he was on his self-titled recording. The group is mostly acoustic and the backing is generally understated and always tasteful. Armerding's pleasing vocals remain at the center, as he examines love from different perspectives.

The group on the CD includes Kevin Barry on guitars, Damien Bassman on percussion, Richard Gates and Zack Hickman on bass, and fellow singer-songwriter Marc Erelli on the harmony vocals and additional guitar. Jake's father Taylor Armerding is heard on harmony vocals and mandolin on a couple of tracks.

The CD opens with Up on the Rim which sets the lyrical direction for the recording. It's about as direct love song as you can get, and features Jake's father Taylor Armerding on the harmony vocals. After the track starts as mostly solo, the band enters and the steel guitar gives it a country touch. <<>>

That segues into the somewhat more energetic Song of Solomon, which is a kind of love song about love songs. The senior Armerding also does harmony vocals, while Jake Armerding gets out his fiddle. <<>>

A track called $2 Kite, takes an interesting approach -- a love song about an uncertain relationship. <<>>

One of the more distinctive songs is Porto, Portugal. It's a slightly jazzy composition about falling in love with someone somewhat exotic. <<>>

The CD has two adjacent tracks that take very different attitudes to relationships. Harry/Sally is a relatively rare first-person song about spurning the love of another. It's mostly solo, but the song has a rock beat. <<>>

That is followed by I Came Upon Some Love Today, also largely solo, but almost the opposite both musically and lyrically. This time, he's in love with her, but it's largely unrequited. <<>>

A song called Dying Light is one of those songs that undoubtedly arose from newly-wed happiness. It's very tastefully done in a somewhat understated manner. <<>>

The CD ends with Coastline, which puts love into a kind of nautical navigation analogy, showing yet another approach Armerding takes to the subject at hand. <<>>

Jake Armerding's new CD Her is a nice new collection of love songs from a talented folk-oriented singer-songwriter. It's a kind of wedding album, inspired as he was by his recent marriage. Sometimes that marital bliss is very obvious, but at others, Armerding addresses other facets including the uncertainties of a relationship and even one that is rejected by the speaker. The quality of songwriting is high, and the fact that he can pull off an entire recording of such a much-visited subject and not have it come off as trite is an accomplishment. And instrumentally, the gathered players on the CD bring it to fruition with a good deal of class.

Our sound quality grade is close to an "A." The dynamic range -- how well the CD preserves the differences between loud and soft is better than average for a contemporary CD, but there are some instances of some less than perfect sonic clarity.

It's the most frequently visited song topic in the world, but Jake Armerding manages to make an engaging and very pleasing album of new love songs on his just-released CD Her.

(c) Copyright 2010 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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