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David Berchtold & Brian Stear - Ghosts of Music Past

TMB Records

15 songs; 55:20 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Acoustic guitar, harmonica, mandolin in Country Blues and Americana

Musicians playing for “free”? At first it sounds ludicrous, but it happens. Organized jams find players performing pro bono, fund raising benefits seek volunteers, and when an artist is invited on stage to join the featured act, usually no money is tendered for those songs. So, why would someone play for free?

When asked “why,” one artist told me, “I have a radio playing in my head 24 hours per day, I have no choice but to let it out.” The most common response is, “I just want to play out.” For those who truly have a muse, the music is in them, and it has to come out.
David Berchtold and Brian Stear have just that, a guiding spirit that is a source of inspiration. Both the muse and the music are in them, and those tunes have to be released.

On this CD, you will hear music from the heart not the head, and passion not perfection – the way music should be recorded. And, music fans everywhere are better off for it!

“Ghosts...” finds Berchtold and Stear covering an amazing array of American music across fifteen tracks as diverse as “How Long Blues” by Leroy Carr and Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Summertime.”

“Parchman Farm” showcases some of the duo’s most passionate playing. David’s acoustic guitar is complemented by some of Brian’s most “down and dirty” harp. Brian also juxtaposes the acoustic lines with piercing notes from an electric guitar. Mose Allison’s ode to the famous prison has never sounded deeper.

"Moles Moan"-- this leading track's weird title invites curiosity: Why WOULD "moles moan?" In this peppy Folk/Country instrumental, check out the quavering rhythm and harmonica. Both are evocative of a train passing by, shaking wet, soggy ground and causing the critters beneath it to squirm!

"Going to California"--The Golden State has always been a popular destination in American history and folklore. This instrumental of the Led Zeppelin classic brings images to mind of rain, running, and love lost. Listeners get the feeling, deep inside, that this journey is not entirely happy or peaceful. Notice the pervasive minor chords here: this isn't the earnestly enthusiastic "Sweet Home Chicago."

"Fishin' Clothes"--"If that preacher'd stop talkin', I'd start walkin'--put on my fishin' clothes," sings David. There's no question where Berchtold’s and Stear’s minds are come Sunday morning! Compared to "Moles Moan," a lesser chugga-chugga train rhythm is present in this Piedmont/Atlanta blues. This true guilty pleasure is from Georgia’s Doug “Little Brother” Jones. David sings and picks while Brian adds peppy harp. Picture a kid at heart who doesn't want to get caught thinking about "a pole and a line" instead of the lines of Scripture! If you don't chuckle at this one, listen again.

"How Long Blues"--This ballad is as classic as blues songs can possibly get. Since it's been covered by countless notables like Eric Clapton, a listener might wonder: What makes this particular version of it unique? The harmonica does, for one, and an insistent ferocity in the sound of the other instruments. There's nothing melancholy about Berchtold and Stear’s rendition. There's an ever-so-slight undertone of anger in it, especially if you pay close attention to the volume of the instruments compared to the vocals. And, the harmony vocal chorus really packs a wallop!

"Come and Go Blues"--This song is a familiar Allman Brothers / Gregg Allman cover, although minus the original lyrics. It's sometimes strange what happens to a ballad when no one belts out the words. At first, listeners might sing along, and then something eerie occurs: one's voice and thoughts die away, leaving only the background chords. What message do these instrumental melodies convey? What memories do they evoke? For an interesting Blues homework assignment, compare and contrast the intro of this song with that of Joe Walsh's "The Confessor." It's the exact same set of chords; this set will bring comfort, the other chills.

David Berchtold & Brian Stear are two men on a heart and gut felt mission: play good music.Gentlemen, mission accomplished!

Amy Walker contributed to this review!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE.

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