As promised by the title of Michelle Malone’s new release, Acoustic Winter, this CD is more in the folk realm than her previous release, 2012’s Day 2. And while I thoroughly enjoyed that release, to my ears this is actually a better album. And though these are acoustic songs, they are certainly not lacking in energy and power. Check out “Burning Star,” for example. And even the quieter songs have an intensity. The songs are mainly dominated by her vocals and acoustic guitar, but she does have some excellent musicians joining her on this release, including Randall Bramblett on piano. Most of these tracks are originals. There are just two covers – one Beatles song and, for good measure, one Rolling Stones song.
Acoustic Winter opens with a wonderful song called “Home.” Recently I reviewed another CD with a song titled “Home” (Erica Blinn’s Lovers In The Dust) and I wrote that I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad song with that title. Well, Michelle Malone provides another good “Home.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’ve been looking my whole life/To find a place where I felt I belonged/Now that I am by your side/Everything is light and I am home.” This song has a sweet and comforting vibe, mostly due to Michelle’s vocals, which have an intimate feel. There is love and joy in her vocal performance.
“Beyond The Mountain”
“Beyond The Mountain” boasts some good lyrics like, “Tried to love somebody who just don’t love me/And I feel like a candle trying to light up the sky.” I love the imagery of this song. Check out the boxing image: “But I feel like a boxer, eyes too swollen to see/To go back to my corner and give up the dream.” This song is led by the vocals and soft, simple playing on acoustic guitar. This is one of my favorite tracks on this album.
There is something of a pop element in the vocal line of “Mirror Ball,” in the verses. The vocals are at the fore, sounding beautiful, particularly on the chorus: “Underneath the mirror ball my camera caught you/Dancing with a thousand tiny lights/Underneath the mirror ball up in the heavens/You dance from star to star for me tonight.” And then she sings, “I haven’t seen you now for years/You would not recognize me.” Such sad lines. “Everything has changed except for you.”
“Super Ball” is my favorite track on this CD. I am particularly in love with the vocal line. It’s beautiful. I also like the touches on piano on this track. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Time and time again I have crashed down/Only to blast back up through the atmosphere/With the sunshine/Leading me back again/So don’t throw it away/Don’t throw it away/You’re a super ball.” There is something truly touching about this song. It’s a song that reaches out to you, a song that keeps you from being alone (with lines like, “You, one of a kind, it’s no mistake/You are exactly as you should be”). And her vocals are just absolutely wonderful.
“A Walk In The Woods”
“A Walk In The Woods” is another of the CD’s highlights. I absolutely love this instrumental tune, and it features some of the best guitar work on the album. I wish it were longer. It’s actually the shortest track on the album.
The Beatles and The Rolling Stones
Michelle Malone covers both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on this CD, clearly not choosing sides on that old argument. When people used to ask me, “Are you a Beatles person or a Stones person,” I liked to answer, “Kinks.” Michelle does an interesting rendition of “Eleanor Rigby.” Her take on this tune is original. There’s a bit of a mean vibe to this rendition, which works, with something almost harsh in her delivery at times. And I love when she belts out, “All the lonely people,” giving the line a bluesy edge. I’m also really fond of the work on bass on this track.
And to keep things even, she covers the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” one of that band’s most beautiful compositions. She does a great job with it too, turning in a heartfelt, sincere vocal performance.
CD Track List
- Beyond The Mountain
- Burning Star
- Where Is The Love
- Mirror Ball
- Super Ball
- Made To Fly
- Walk In The Woods
- Counting Stars
- Eleanor Rigby
- Wild Horses
Musicians on this album include Michelle Malone on vocals, guitar, harmonica and piano; Randall Bramblett on piano; Troy Harris on upright bass; Ben Holst on lap steel, organ and percussion; Gerry Hansen on percussion; Trish Land on percussion; and Marty Kearns on the string arrangement.
Acoustic Winter is scheduled to be released on February 4, 2014 through SBS Records.