The NBTMusic Review 137

All Reviews in this post written by Jacobus Rossouw aka 88KOS

CS Nielsen – Man of the Fall (Melodika)

There is an American musical tradition that has a depth to its spirituality that is seductive. It is not the preachy money-grab of the silk-suited televangelist. It’s not the hype of the cowboy hat and the trendy 5 o’clock shadow of Nashville stereotype. No, this is the gut-wrenching, visceral art that comes from the depths of despair, and you’ll know it by those who perfected it, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.

So it’s a bit of a surprise to find an album by CS Nielsen from Denmark, that sounds as if it took up that Empire of Dirt and was explaining how it all came to be.

“Man of the Fall” by CS Nielsen, no matter where it was made, is the perfect eulogy to Cash, whether this is the intent or not. It is an album stripped of artifice and fixed to the Stations of the Cross, the stare of the pious man who is easily tempted and hurt by his own weakness. This message might deter listeners who are not of the Faith but I would urge them to open their ears to this testament and listen because here is a truth, that even I as unbeliever, can endorse.

The album is sparse without being cold with wonderfully capable acoustic arrangement all around and such variety in sound and arrangement that your ears will never grow tired of it.

Personal highlights: Blood of the Lamb and Man of the Fall

It’s a perfect album, perhaps the best album I’ve ever reviewed. Buy it.

Tracks from this album will be featured all over the 24 hour stream that is NBTMusicRadio but specially during the

4 PM (Berlin Time) slot that’s 3 PM UK  10 AM New York AND for our USA/Canada Audiences 9 PM New York Time

Mark Davis – Eliminate the Toxins (Independent Release)

Mark Davis’ latest album is hauntingly catchy. If I stop listening after any one song I find myself whistling that song for hours afterwards. This is a rare thing and I must say that it’s one of the things I loved most about the album. It’s clear that Davis spent time on these songs and made sure that they were done justice so that each one, in turn would be memorable.

It’s an album that is so flawless that I have to confess to some irritation (probably just jealousy). It’s clear that Davis is a superb craftsmen of words, music and production, but where others with similar skills can overbear the listener with their obvious attempts to show off those skills, Davis just does the right thing for each song.

Elsewhere Davis has mentioned that the album pays homage to his musical forebears. And indeed, there are so many tributes to influences all over this album that I soon lost count. But here’s the part that blows my mind: each one of those tributes is seamless, is perfectly placed. So seamless that I’m sure some are purely my own ears picking up sounds that made sense to me (such as the Shawn Phillips influence on “How Many Angels”).

Such tribute could be trite and obvious but what Davis has done with this album is to take those influences and bring them together to form something that sounds completely new and that is unmistakeably his own. It’s a wonderful album of 11 songs that (in my honest opinion) everyone should own.

Personal Highlight: How Many Angels (the best opening track to an album since John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark” opened with “TC and Honeybear”)

Don Williams – And So it Goes (Sugar Hill Records)

I was overjoyed when NBT asked me to review this Don Williams album. Williams has been making music for as long as I’ve been alive and I have childhood memories that have his bass-baritone as soundtrack.

But 41 years is a long time in the music industry and a very long time for an individual to keep producing quality, so I was worried that I would perhaps be disappointed by the album.

Happily, this is not the case. It’s another golden album from Williams, sweet, gentle and kind. Those NBT listeners who prefer their music challenging would do well to stay away, but sentimental souls who share my love for Anne Murray tunes and have Roger Whittaker albums will enjoy this album.

Having said that, it’s not an album for superlatives. I did not find myself overwhelmed by any one song, but it’s an album that I will dearly love on those Saturday afternoons when I’ve finished some hard work and I need to relax with a beer or two. It’s an album for warmth and kindness.

Personal Highlight: I Just Come Here For The Music (which features the always wonderful Alison Krauss)

Tracks from both of these albums can be heard all over the NBTMusicRadio
TuneIn (for blackberry and android):NBTMusicRadio
iTunes: Click on ‘Advanced’ then ‘Open Stream’
and paste:
stream thru your Media Player:


The NBT Review 136

Older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

POEMA – Romina Di Gasbarro (Independent Release)

The colours fall from the pitch black, perhaps its summer disguised as autumn, Heaven is haunting internal, delicate shades of a dreamlike hell, overlaid across a jazz seduced thoughtful city, a troubled sweet Joni Mitchell, younger though, darker.

She sings, ‘’It’s no fun, this place I’m in’ but contradicts by starting the song gentle almost playful, her guilt, her sin, isn’t dark storm obvious , rather like the way the light will shimmer on sighing water, captivating and intense, deeply touching without the sad theatrics that too many fumbling songwriters us as their weapon of choice.

In, ‘’Love Life Sentence’’ the writer allows us to dance around the near future of this couple, all is not quite real , all is what might be, there is a taste of fear in the wind, but again her shadows are colours forming from the darkness, flowers floating through the rhythms.

Shape shifting, time shifting into the epic, soothing cinematic edits, the song, ‘’The Foolish and the Good’’ twists, turns, and beguiles, breathtakingly rich in observation, showcasing the intimate and the frenzied, often within one line of perfectly felt verse. It is the sort of song, that the listener does not want to leave, wants that private earphone moment to last through the night.

Because the innovation, the emotion is subtly portrayed, the thrill is in the discovery, you feel the singer sings secrets maybe only you can quite understand, and you are left in that terribly lovely twilight of being almost satisfied and completely desiring more.

A wonderful album.

You can hear tracks from this album spread all across the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio
iTunes/TuneIn (for blackberry and android):NBTMusicRadio

stream thru yr media player:

The NBT Review 131

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

Who Was That Man – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Socks Records)

There is a thrill in the layers. The opening track swoons in, all epic western romantic, bandit style horns pretty and widescreen, the title evoking  old fashioned imagery of musical daring, the mysterious crusader, and then as we listen closer, this is not a song about that at all, rather someone lost, searching, half deliberately distant half pleading for the comfort of connection.

That is what is so enticing about this record, what lies just beneath the picturesque is quietly questioning, emotionally reflective.

‘Saving Or Suffocation‘ a song of quiet personal protest, has a tangible sense of despair that plays against the sweet sad fiddle arrangements, and yet still maintains its beauty as a seductive country pop song. The kind of song that SHOULD be nominated for a Grammy already!

As with all of Rosenthal’s albums, the production (by the singer and the DB’s Chris Stamey) is just right, never over dramatic, never sickly syrup, polished just enough for daytime radio but rough and honest enough for a midnight caress.

When, in ‘Black and Blue’ Rosenthal adopts a larger canvas of criticism (the oil spills) his art and bite is worthy of a Dylan, yet somehow calmer less strident, a voice of reason, troubled yet somehow hopeful.

When listening to a song like, ‘The Librarian’ one can hear the sounds that those left of centre heroes Wilco and Calexico currently create, with a voice that is completely his own. He is so comfortable within these tunes, that even if I heard these in a busy noisy Mall I would know it was a Tokyo song.

The thrill is, that he plays it traditional too, these are Grand Ol Opry concoctions, he never loses sight of what is essential, there are no aimless ramble jams here, all is in service of the perfectly constructed composition.

He just keeps getting better.

You can hear tracks from this album spread ALL over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

But specially during the hours of 9 and 10 AM (New York Time) and 9 and 10 PM (New York Time)
iTunes/TuneIn (for blackberry and android):NBTMusicRadio

Stream thru yr media player:

The NBT Review 129

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

Forgiving Wind – Jaspar Lepak

(Reviewed by Helge Janssen)

What is so powerful about Jaspar is that she has a gift for honing in on those sensitive and often negated emotions that a brash life continues to trash – to render unimportant – and turns them the right way round replacing them in our consciousness, giving them the stature and value that they deserve. As such Jaspar does not complain about the old order of things – she simply rearranges it and presents us with the innovative result! I find this heroic, and revolutionary.

This is the fascinating essence of Jaspar Lepak.

As such Jaspar is refocusing Country and Western/Folk music in an updated, modern context…..while never losing sight its roots. From the deepest heart of her experience her understanding of human emotion spills into the spread of the collective unconscious of our time. A particular example of this aspect of Jaspar’s focus:

“Plain as you”

A word that brings the heart to light
Is worth the dark and sleepless nights
And the melody that frees the shame
Is worth the journey through the pain

These words ring a resonance with a deep reverence and respect for life’s seemingly insignificant gems that are hard won, that heal, that nurture.

Jaspar’s musical arrangements and compositions are hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizingly melodic, never overstated, always stripped to an essence and diligently refined. I say this having experienced the vast array of varying perspectives of her compositions in a ‘live’ context (Phansi Museum, Bluestockings, St. Clements, Eagles View) and then being rewarded with the distillation as represented on “Forgiving Wind” Jaspar’s 5th CD release. It has been an honour to have witnessed this creative process at first hand, in real time, here in Durban South Africa with an artist of the stature of Jaspar Lepak.

No virtual reality this.

“Nothing to Dream”

….dreams die slow
and you don’t even know
how you let them fall
so far behind…..

We have all experienced this process in our waking moments as we slowly forget the previous night’s dream: here, applied to the sense of loss at not living one’s dream in life, becomes a statement of profound proportions. And yet, while this happens so slowly, reflectively it seems to have happened in a flash. To me, this song has the effect of heightening the sense of ‘now’, creating urgency about living in the present. There is also a warning of what it is like to not live consciously and have the courage to take life-affirming risks. Sean Ross’ bass line ties this song together most cleverly.

My current favourite is undoubtedly “Hollow Part”. The ‘walk’ and melody of the acoustic guitar leading an intertwining of the banjo (Bryan Eaton) and the mandolin (Richard Haslop) is inspired, and I love the accordion cord changes in particular (Kale Lepak) and the way it swells, comes to the fore, then gently recedes into the background once more, colouring the subdued moments for Jaspar’s lucid voice to have implosive impact. The drifting echoing ending is wistful and perfect….

“I Know a Woman” deals essentially with the mismatch of paternalism and of its expectations and abuse, bringing to the fore the feminine courage and fortitude needed to harness this negative energy. Paternalism is a global area of concern in desperate need of redress: it is often at the core of offensive, impulsive behaviour and violence. Jaspar points out just how infantile paternalism can be:

“They tell us our sadness is private depression
But a mother’s submission is centuries old….”

As such Jaspar does not seek blame, but rather places her insight within an ‘intuitive contrast’ where the truth of a situation hits you unambiguously. By balancing misinformed fact with historical truth she does not perpetuate the violence: she dissolves it! She is not fighting fire with fire, but with water, with sand, with a blanket, with carbon dioxide: with knowledge!

This ‘seeing’ of Jaspar’s brings a transformative recognition to the unfair hand of women being subjected to this matrix of pervasive assumptions that have contrived to spread from generation to generation – and how women themselves have unwittingly been party to this propagation. It is no wonder then that women have (as a form of defence?) become ‘unfathomable’ to most men. This is a song of epic proportions and is the gender-based (as opposed to indigent-based) version of ‘Streets of London’ where Jaspar takes us by the hand and leads us through the chambers of the female heart: be it daughter to mother, woman to wo/men, woman to way of the world, or the world to the Goddess – while startling us with alerting facts!

“People won’t like you” with Rowan Stuart on slide/lead guitar, is a bluesy driving plait of guitars and a marvellous example of letting go, of trusting in the power of one’s inner voice and joyously cutting loose from expectations that hold one back. There is some ingenious perception done with incisive imagery:

“Well go ahead mister, go drown in your whisky,
The religion of a sinner needs a saint nailed to the wall.
Well I ain’t so perfect and this feeling bad ain’t worth it
I’m taking myself down and I’m walking out the door…..”

The myriad slants of the inner dialogue of self-doubt instigated by a lack of resonance from a partner are turned inside out and then underlined with a flip of two words – by replacing ‘won’t’ with ‘will’ and ‘wrong’ with ‘right’ in the final chorus line title of this song! Sheer brilliance!

Every track on “Forgiving Wind” is a winner and is a marvelous contribution to the world of thoughtful reflection as antidote to the pollution we evidence coming from the mindless music output that feeds mass immobility. The album bristles with wit and courage wrapped in a coating of lyricism and musicianship: a palatable and formidable combination. It also comes as a huge boon to the music scene in Durban where the talents of Durban based musicians – Bryan Eaton, Sean Ross, Nibs van der Spuy, Richard Haslop, Shawn Lovell, Rowan Stuart, Brent Quinton – have been put to excellent use.

Photographs of Jaspar in the Drakensburg Mountains were taken by Kale Lepak. Illustration and Art Design is by Amelia of The CD was recorded and mixed by Brent Quinton at the Boiler Room in Durban and mastered by Greg Reierson at Rare Form Mastering in Mpls. MN.

Nothing lost, everything gained.

A beautiful Christmas gift awaits a deserving you and/or a worthy friend!

Ps: Jaspar has a degree in Literature and Song Writing and studied piano from age six.

You can hear tracks from this album spread ALL over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio
iTunes/TuneIn (for blackberry and android):NBTMusicRadio

Stream thru yr media player:

The NBT Review 128

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

Ghosts and Men – Beth Wimmer (Independent Release)

A lot of rock n roll is all about romanticising the rebel, the outlaw, the ‘Lovers On The Run’, it’s rare though, for a songwriter to tell of
the fear, the practical nervous concerns, of one of those lovers, taken along for a ride they didn’t completely commit to, it’s rare to show the humanity behind this most charming of scenarios. Wimmer opens her new album with this distinctive look at the personal, and in a way it’s a statement of intent.

 In the very next song, ‘Sweet Tragedy’ she carefully sketches, the poets attempt to live the colour in his words, while existing in the grey of his existence. She, the singer, can still love him, but she also really knows him, and again its this slant on what we call romantic that elevates this.

 We fumble, we hustle, we fall down and often take our sweet time getting up and pushing on, and now we have an artist to capture all this, in subtle shades of pop Americana, delicate hues of finely played country, forgoing the cliché of the victim in song and concentrating with a fragile benevolence on these flawed, yet strangely wonderful characters.

 Now based in Switzerland, Beth Wimmer seems to have found the perfect detachment needed to fully flesh out these small town vignettes ,
staying away from soap opera angst, and easy solutions within the 3 minute pop son structure that so many are happy to settle for.

 Although most of these songs feature betrayal, either emotional or physical, this is no collection of songs from the point of view of the victim,
rather its a loving quiet calm, that seeps through the tunes, adding beauty to the rhythms and  in every verse there is the steel hint of hope, which makes this an extremely uplifting experience.

 As with all Wimmer albums, the singer is so in sync with her band, that the recording has an easy live feel, of course something that sounds
this effortless, means that a great deal of care and work went into its construction, and here I can report that every instrument MATTERS, but no one hogs the limelight, no shiver or sigh is added just for the sake of it.

 This album transcends that old stereotype and really does get better with every listen

 find out more here:

 and you can hear tracks from this album all over the 24 hour stream that is

the NBTMusicRadio
iTunes: NBTMusicRadio
TuneIn(for Blackberry/Android) : NBTMusicRadio

or stream it thru your media player :