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PRESS REVIEW, 5/1/2017
Mad Folk News (newsletter of the Madison Folk Music Society)

Review of Common Chord, Self-Titled release, 2017 (Porch String Music) -
by Kiki Schueler

There is a healthy dose of whimsy on Common Chord’s self-titled debut, but those light-hearted moments are gracefully balanced with traditional gospel and intoxicating ballads. Common Chord is co-fronted by singer-songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Tracy Jane Comer and Michael Bryant, who form the backbone of every song on the record. Even when Bruce Buttel takes his turn at lead with a pair of original compositions, the haunting lullaby “One More Trail” and candid love song “Already Know,” the pair add backing vocals, bass, and viola (the latter courtesy of Comer, and exceptionally lovely on “Trail”), giving the whole project a unified feeling. Other players come and go over the course of the record’s slight thirty-six minute running time, Delores Jenison on backing vocals, Faye Bruggink on soulful clarinet, and Alan Maslowski on tasteful percussion, each lending their talents to elegantly flesh out vocals and melodies.

The immediate accessibility of Bryant’s work, as well as his effortless vocals, make his songs the ones you (and likely your children too) will be singing along to after only a handful of listens. The opening track “Little Boy Blue” imagines Mother Goose characters as part of a very happening swing band. There are the expected players, Boy Blue on horn of course (his part played by Bruggink), the cat on the fiddle, and the lesser known Goosey Gander on piano, while the little old lady who lives in a shoe makes an enthusiastic audience. I know my nursery rhymes better than most, but I’ve never heard any mention of a pig playing tambourine. Apparently he’s pretty good, a “virtual rhythm machine” according to Bryant. I like it. “Sneakers” is equally playful, using the footwear for their intended purpose of sneaking, and using that stealth to raid the cookie jar, among other adventures. He works up our appetite with the very hummable and deceptively calorie-free “Wind Pudding with Air Sauce,” which encourages imagination in lieu of dinner. In case you thought they were going to let us go hungry, final track “Toast and Jelly” pays off with a plethora of treats -  spaghetti, ice cream, hot chocolate and peanut butter banana sandwiches.

Comer’s tracks provide a different type of nourishment, more spiritual than physical. Her take on the eight decade old traditional “Ain’t No Grave” isn’t as weighty as Johnny Cash’s omnipresent TV and movie closing track, but it is far from slight. Comer’s jangly guitar is mighty, Jenison and Bryant’s backing vocals angelic, and Maslowski’s brushed snare propulsive. It’s one of the record’s highlights. Classic TV fans will recognize the Rodney Dillard and Mitch Jayne penned “There is a Time” as one of the songs The Darlings sang on The Andy Griffith Show. Here it’s more cool jazzy folk than bluegrass, but no less affecting. Who knows, Comer’s version might have made old Pa Darling get his kerchief out too. The penultimate track, her optimistic original “In This New Year” gives a message of hopefulness. Her pleas for us to “become instruments of peace in this new year” feel timely as well as timeless.

In fact that sums up the whole record, Common Chord has made a record that lives up to their name. And while these songs are certainly all-ages, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bryant has a children’s record in him somewhere.

Fan Review

"[Your CD] is over the top. Great arrangements and sound! The high-quality sound really makes the music and words put you in a good place. Your music has a new and fresh sound, with an old school rhythm and grassroots blues mix.

I really liked Toast and Jelly. I could hear a trace of the Manhatten Transfers Java Jive, I love coffee, I love tea...You guys are great. National tours are in your future."
- Bill and Carole, Madison WI

Fan Review

"Amazing. What a work of art. Congratulations on it. The songs are incredible ... and I love the pacing of it...the way some of [Michael's] more light-hearted tunes (I especially like Sneakers) are off set with Tracy and Bruce songs. Tracy's voice is a perfect harmonic match with [Michael's], like the way Emmylou was for Parsons. The compositions and vocal arrangements are so complex and yet sound so effortless. And ya'lls take on Ain't No Grave literally gave me chills. It's perfect, one of the best albums I've heard released this year. Awesome packaging too. Whoever put the CD cover together perfectly captured the vibe on the album with the color scheme, logo and fonts."
- Dan, Atlanta GA

Fan Review

"...The CD is really good, can’t decide which I like best! Little Boy Blue is very good...Sneakers is cute...Frost on the Pumpkin great, as are all the rest. The clarinet reminds me of Woody Herman or Edmond Hall or Pete Fountain; I enjoyed their stuff in the past."
- Jim, Madison WI

Fan Review

"I love it [the CD]! Have listened to it at least 20 times already! Awesome job!"
- Emma Kay, Oklahoma City OK

Fan Review

"...I wanted to tell you first and foremost how much I enjoyed the CD. Wow - what a great collection of songs. [Michael,] your songs turned out so well...the addition of the ladies harmonies and clarinet are just beautiful. Sneakers is definitely my favourite, and Tracy plays a mean bass (and she is just super talented all around). Though I can't get over all the key changes in Toast and Jelly and how it works all so well; you wrote a pretty killer song there. I hadn't heard The Moon was on the Pumpkin before - how beautiful. So sweet. Your voice sounds great on all the tunes, and the guitar and bass playing is spot on. Drums and percussion: The playing is really great.... I gotta say, Bruce's vocals are incredible. He's got a real great voice, I really enjoyed hearing him sing. And finally, Tim's [logo] artwork is great. You've got a real superb team of collaborators there in Madison. Hope to hear more music soon. Thanks again for the CD! It's definitely staying in my car for some more plays."
-Brian, from Toronto


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