When I first heard this record by Sherman Baker it struck me as warm and familiar, bringing me in yet something was strange enough to keep me listening. We've all been told that less is more but I believe there are other times when more is right. Such is the case with the deep tank reverb used on the album’s opening track The Knave which contributed a bit of a wash-out like the way some of the old Columbia recordings of Simon and Garfunkel’s voices were produced and of which I always loved. To accompany his voice Baker uses a steady rhythm on the low strings of the guitar to carry all the beat of the song’s intro while he weaves his melody in and out of the empty spaces and then, much to my joy the guitar tracks start to build with the drums and Bass coming in at the precise moment of perfection and I think I’m hearing a song that Al Stewart (Year Of The Cat) could have written back in the late nineteen-seventies. Not a bad way to start off a good record and I’m not implying that the song lacks originality at all. In fact most everything we hear today has pretty much been done before but the genius plays out by how we use the colors in the crayon box of music doesn't it? There are only a few notes in our musical scale yet there are millions of ways to sequence them, and Sherman Baker does a fine job arranging them his own way.
I found myself engaged in his song “ Highway Prayer “ with its arpeggiated acoustic guitar moving at a rapid pace against an ethereal sea of guitar-effect pads in the far background. It is soothing but not to the point of becoming a new-age meditation track by any means. The words of the poem are beautiful but sung softly so as to not be in your face unless you chose for them to be. Then I start getting into Baker’s head and his thought process as a producer; why he chose this, why that was left out – and realize the sheer artistry of the man.
There are several tracks on this CD that I really like for different reasons but most of all I favor the consistency that has Sherman Baker’s own brand in every melody, poem, arrangement and production. If I were to pick a personal favorite it would have to be We Grow Old because this song is sparse and quirky with it’s up-stoke rhythm and just a single voice setting the stage and slowly building the story. It then blooms like a sunflower of brightness and color with the drums and other instruments, criss-cross harmonies cascading and of course, that killer little slightly de-tuned upright piano that gives it a little Abbey Road charm. I don’t know that Mr. Baker is consciously channeling some Mr. Lennon or not, but it’s a very pleasant, touching and subliminal tribute to the man, or at least a style that the Fab One brought to the world so long ago with his Liverpool mates. So whatever the reason or motivation this is a great song!
Sherman Baker has proved in this self-titled release that he is a songwriter of substance and a very capable musician that I don’t always find combined in the music of today. See, I kind of think there are singers, songwriters, singer-songwriters and then a few of us other weirdo’s who not only want to paint the picture, we want to go to the store and mix the paint ourselves, maybe even make the canvas so that when the song is completed it’s our baby. There’s no one else to consult or to blame. When a record turns out this good though, we deserve to take a longer bow !
Yogi and the Yoginis are a group of musicians led by “ Yogi “ Terry McCaw of Seattle Washington. The group is one of the most interesting collections of talents this writer has ever witnessed Live anywhere – bar none! Almost two years ago when we first mentioned Mr. McCaw and his orchestra, a friend and I went to a small Jazz venue in Seattle’s University district – a place where one is subjected to sights and sounds, aromas filling the air of fresh baked breads, coffee and occasionally a grilled onion. The music of the famed “ U “ district varies from folk to Blues to Punk and, in the case of Yogi and the Yoginis – “ World “. There is no other genre with which I could classify the diversity of Macaws music to the accompaniment of the finest players the City may ever see. There are upon occasion several configurations in the Yoginis show but it is common to see outstanding Bass, Drums, Latin Percussion, Sax and guitar, Yogi on Piano and a superb female vocalist who hails from Brazil. Each and every performer brings an equal share of musicianship and experience to the stage and delivers with one hundred per cent passion note for note.
Yogi and the Yoginis have just returned from India recently where they completed their latest CD the Terra Shivaiya Album, available on CD Baby and iTunes. Fifteen musicians from East and West joined together in a total of four studios, lived side by side sharing food and laughter and their mutual love of music. The result is a spinning collective of sounds and visual evoking rhythms and melodies pulling the listener into the paradox where an ancient world is within reach in the image cast in a jungle pond, reflecting back on it’s parallel universe of modern fusion, tangled passages of saxophones, Tabla and Conga drums and Yogi McCaw’s intricately selective notes from the palette of his Piano. Haunting voices interweave throughout the payers of silk, wood and steel. All of which paints the canvas and ultimately transforms us, takes us through a portal where time and timing are irrelevant. All one must do is be there and listen. Just Be.