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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
  Tales from the Wine Dark Sea by Tom Caufield, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/12/2014
  Bardo by Christopher Bono, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/12/2014
  Always Near: A Romantic Collection by Kevin Kern, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/12/2014
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Tales from the Wine Dark Sea
By Tom Caufield
Label: Bohemian Embassy
Released 8/19/2014
Tales from the Wine Dark Sea tracks
1. Water Everywhere (not a drop to drink)
2. The Lost Art of Finding Our Way
3. Tales from the Wine Dark Sea
4. The Shape of the Journey
5. The Water is Wide
6. Complex Currents
7. Stars Shot Madly
8. Hekimoglu
9. When I Was Dark
10. The Ways We Miss Our Lives is Life
11. The Green Ray
He’s Reading Jung Again
I have listened and enjoyed the music of acoustic guitarist Tom Caufield for some time now. I have never been disappointed, nor I am now as I take pleasure in his latest contribution called Tales From The Wine Dark Sea. One of these days, I am going to ask him where he gets his album and track titles. They are always curious and though provoking just like his music. Caufield has a sparse biography, but really he does not need much of one as his music is encyclopedic in technical style, vibrant color and most of all, subliminal texture. There seems to be subtexts to all of his melodies, intentional or not. As a reviewer, I feel privileged to go beneath the surface, and as listener, I am enthralled with the experience.

The first song on the album, Water Everywhere (not a drop to drink), opens with a droning resonance, something I would hardly expect from an acoustic man like Tom. But it did its job, grabbing my attention right away and made me wonder what comes next. What did come next was an amazing acoustical performance of echoing fretwork that tells a story of the journey. The melody, slow and fluent, suggests that there is an inherent sense of calm on this salty vastness. I can see and feel the water and yet, my other senses are inundated with the encounter and there is certainly more to come.

Tales From The Wine Dark Sea, the title track, has a slightly muted intro, but then as I listened, I heard the stories. The stories are an account of what we look for and what we find during a life’s journey. The sea in this case is the distances we travel on that journey. The tales are made up of obstacles, false starts and a lot of corner turning.

Tom offers a heart wrenching variation on one of my all time favorite songs, The Water is Wide. I have mentioned it in other places, but I first heard this song in the movie Nobody Waved Goodbye back in 1967 when my life was tumultuous. It has always brought me peace and it does so now. The folk song written in the 1600s has been recorded quite a bit by everyone from The Kinston Trio to James Taylor to Mark Knofler. I must have played Tom’s superb version a hundred times shaking away the cobwebs and rebuilding the memories.

The song Stars Shot Madly is bit lighter and more informal in tone than Tom's usual offerings, but pleasing nonetheless. It has a bluesy refrain snaking through it that almost puts it out of the album's main theme, but then again, I thought that life always seems to hand us surprises. The song reminds me that, like the morning sun, the evening stars are always there to rely on even when we cannot see them from the clouds.

History records countless stories of love and honor and the one from Turkey about the son of a physician and a village beauty is no exception. Hekimoglu, after falling in love with a young woman, broke local taboos and ran for his life. He became a folk hero, a Robin Hood of sorts, but his ending was a tragic one. The tune
Hekimoglu is a slow, tender song sounding like a Spanish guitar ballad of a life not only tested, but also unfulfilled. The tone is serious, the story sad, and the melody dulcet.

A similar electronic tone used in the first song is utilized in the tune When I Was Dark. The character of this piece is somber as if it has never witnessed daylight. Like all of Caufield's compositions, there is an intricacy of a long, thought out process, but this one is moody and brooding. There are times in our lives when we hide under the bridge instead of crossing it and I think this music represents one of those times. Coincidentally, it is the longest track on the recording.

The journey (for now) comes to an end with the peaceful, flowing tune The Green Ray. After I heard this song, it put me mind of only one possible scenario. Sometimes, just as the very edge of the sun dips below the horizon, there is a momentary green flash of light. I know about it because I witnessed it out on the ocean many years ago. Many think it is a sign of a storm approaching, but I feel it is the way the universe, my universe at least, said goodnight.

Tales From The Wine Dark Sea poses directly and indirectly some difficult questions. Are we part of a collective unconsciousness? Is our genetic makeup the sum of all of our experiences? Not for me to answer, but for all of us to ponder. Tom Caufield is one of a handful of musicians who can translate not only delicate emotion, but also hard won experiences into cogent melody. His music defines the word provocative in every musical sense. I highly recommend this recording.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/12/2014
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