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RECORDING AND OTHER NEWS
OTIS' BRAND NEW CD:
TURN A PAGE
Listen to some of the music on this CD
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Part II - Northeast
written by AK
"Turn A Page" CD Review
As a resident of Warren, Rhode Island, the 54 year-old Otis Read is best known locally for his work as a member of the Celtic band The Gnomes.
Throughout the last 30 years, this song composer proved himself to be an experienced performer in diverse musical genres such as blues, folk, jazz and Americana. But after all those sheltered years, he finally gave in to the itching to take up a solo album. Turn a Page is the result of all that work and Read can be very proud of the production.
This debut album consists of songs in the style of folk, country and blues that all speak of love in all its aspects. Most of the tracks were composed in the land of love, Italy, during his 3-year stay in the south European country.
In 2005, he suffered a heart attack and after the long recuperation period, Otis Read understood that the moment had come to take his self-composed songs out of the closet and bring them out in the open via his debut album.
Turn a Page is the first track on the CD and allows us to hear Irish sounds along with a strikingly present tin whistle played by Phil Edmonds. The acoustic guitar dominates again in the uptempo track Before I Met You. In the song Riding on the Highway, Read says it took him 10 years to finish that song after the germ idea came to him during a long car ride.
Most of the songs of Turn a Page have come to fruition during the last 3 decades and are only now seeing the light of day thanks to the creation of this debut album as solo artist. Otis Read says that the songs Wake Me and Rainbow were written already 30 years ago and the song I'm Going Home was waiting in the aisles for 15 years before it was brought out.
The typical influences of country are present in every song and the banjo, fiddle and pedal steel form the musical witnesses to this heritage. Some highlights are worth pointing out: Like a Javelin, Wake Me and I Miss The Love, the instrumental accordion played by Phil Edmonds on Wined and Dined and concluding with Wishin' and Missin' You.
Otis Read promises that Turn a Page is the first of 4 CDs that he will bring out in a short time span. A country album, a folk album and a R&B album will follow shortly thereafter. If he wants to send them all to Rootstime, we will have our hands full with the reviewing. Luckily, we will still manage this duty with great pleasure.
From Celtic Beat Update
Part II - Northeast
written by AK
"Under the Arch" CD Review
Phil Edmonds; Otis Read; Cathy Clasper Torch;
Nate Silva; Dan Edinberg; John Juxo
For all the flash, technology and sturm and drang in Celtic music today this is the CD that just blew me away. Simply by its straightforward old time musicianship; original combination of instrumentals; and intellectual artistic approach to music.
You know you are hearing something both traditional in its technology and original from the very first cut, Along The Stonewalls, where Phil Edmonds and Otis Read combine.
Via Umbria has a Celtic feel to it while evoking images of lonely roads through the north Italian countryside.
This CD is a musical meander. There are traces of Latin American music in Zorn. [The title cut] Under The Arch has a touch of didg suggested, while in Through The Cracks John Juxo has echoes in his accordion that I have heard in the Canadian Maritimes.
We're glad to see Nate Silva back again with his pipes in Climate Control which, with Otis'guitar and Phil's whistle, is another haunting piece.
Ireland is revisited in the beautiful, regretful Never, If I Had My Way.
Perhaps the most haunting tune to me is the final one: Maura's Journey, where Cathy Clasper Torch picks up the Chinese erlu instead of the fiddle. This is so powerful and poigniant, one would have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by this magnificent combination with accordion and guitar.
This is music.
Review courtesy Providence Phoenix
Jan. 16, 2003
written by Bob Gulla
"Under the Arch" CD Review
Phil Edmonds, Otis Read and Friends
There's something about the sound of the tin whistle, beyond those blasted old Irish Spring ads, that truly speaks to the soul. There's a spiritual feel to the sound, a feel that holds within it a medieval sense of place, a place where troubadours and madrigals provide the only musical expression and where people were more intimate with their primal, inner selves. That may sound like a bunch of BS to those of you who spend time reading reviews of pop music in Blender and Rolling Stone, but when was the last time you listened to an album of Irish whistles and acoustic guitar?
Anyway, Phil Edmonds, an artist who has spent much of his musical career in the fold of the talented Pendragon, has certainly neared mastering whistles. He presents a fine demonstration of them on Under the Arch, a new album that deserves the attention of genuine fans of folk and acoustic music. Edmonds, with the major accompaniment of Otis Read on acoustic guitar, as well as Johnny Juxo on accordion, Dan Edinburg on bass, and Cathy Clasper-Torch on violin, sinks his teeth into 11 compositions, 10 of which are written by the very talented Read and one by Edmonds himself. Edmonds's whistle dominates all of the compositions, providing the melody line -- soaring, spiritual flights across the upper reaches of the tonal scale -- while Read's acoustic guitar establishes a solid base with which to keep the tunes, and Edmonds' soaring, closer to the ground. Songs like the opening "Along the Stone Walls" and the beautiful "Climate Change," feature Edmonds front and center, dancing across the acoustic foundation like a spry leprechaun on a soft bed of clover.
But a few songs on the record give the other musicians at the sessions a chance to step forward. All-around local music stud Johnny Juxo leads the way on accordion on the romantic closer, "Maura's Journey," the only Edmonds tune on the record. Elsewhere, Read's mandolin serves up a nice change of pace -- the dynamic of the plucked mandolin string is decidedly different from the strummed sound of Read's guitar. All of these additions help to add slightly more subtle shades of color to the pieces, a real plus when you're talking about an entire album's worth of acoustic instrumentals.
Recorded at Sleeping Dog Studios and produced by Read and Steve Copel, the recording sounds pristine. The quality is excellent, with enough resonance on Edmonds's flute and enough bass on Read's guitar to provide an excellent range of tone. There's a lot to be impressed with on Under the Arch. But the best thing you can do, aside from picking this disc up for your lazy Sunday morning listening sessions, would be to see them live next week.
Otis Read, Johnny Juxo, and Phil Edmonds will perform at the Tinker's Nest on Metacom Avenue in Warren next Thursday, January 23 at 8 p.m. There is no cover.
From Suono Magazine, No. 299, May 1998
written in Italian by Piero Bottali
English translation by Paula Mastrobuono
(Original Italian version to follow)
A Jam Session
with Otis Read
It was one of those concerts you always remember. It wasn't really even a concert, but a rare jam session. An improvisation on the stage of first one, then two, and finally three performers: the hobo Otis Read, Mike Cooper, a great among steel guitarists, and Luca Venitucci, accordion player. The stage was Folkstudio in Rome, just before it closed. This testifies our encouragement to reopen it.
Among its many qualities, The Folkstudio had the gift of knowing how to suprise its concertgoers, because on the playbill with those extremly well-known names were those unknown ones — like that of Otis Read — whom no one had heard of. Not that it mattered; you blindly trusted their taste and the choices made by the club's direction since, if they handed over their exclusive stage to a complete unknown, he would have to be very good, and that was enough.
A character to discover, fun and exhilarating without even knowing it — Otis Read, born in New York 45 years ago, tall, thin, fair skinned with good-natured, pale blue eyes and a spacious forehead, reddish hair and beard. Without a doubt, an authentic vagabond singer-songwriter — a lonesome hobo, like Woody Guthrie — but also an irresistable comic of the chaotic type. The kind that trips on his own feet, or he inextricably tangles himself up in his own suspenders or ties his shoe using a lace from the opposite shoe, etc. Naturally he is aware of this and this is what makes him so much fun.
We notice it upon hearing his first lines, "I'm going to start with an instrumental piece because traffic is crazy out there and I'm very nerrrrvous!" he explains, clearly agitated. He begins to play, but notices something is wrong: he checks his guitar and then looks at the audience with a puzled expression, but no one knows what he's missing. A moment of standstill panic. Finally he understands, and his face lights up with childlike joy: he had the guitar in the wrong position, since he's left handed and can't play in this position, but — he repeats, excusing himself for not knowing how to speak Italian — he is still "so nerrrrvous . . ." His long skinny fingers sweetly pick the strings with their tips, with sufficient ability for a hobo who is — let's not forget — a singer-songwriter, and the the guitar has the one function of accompanying the inspired words of his songs.
This is the musical portrait of Otis Read, mild minstrel who tells us of his world full of scenes of fables, idyllic and secret, of special and isolated places, of faces, smiles, portraits and memories, of wishes, of reservations and fears. Together, Never Apart is a sweet ballad with a taste of shyness, freshness, cleanness and ingenouosness just like it's writer. I'm Afraid to go Home is a traditional song that tells of a post-war era with desire and, at the same time, fear of what we might see, fear of going ahead and not being able to make it. Otis is so much immersed in his song that his gentle pale blue eyes are covered with some tears: he, a 45-year-old, has probably told us of an event that touches him personally. But fortunately he is a chaotic type and in his inspiration he doesn't notice that he is rocking violently while seated on a high, unstable-looking stool. We in the audience are afraid it will collapse shortly and he will fall into the audience, bringing all the equipment down with him. This is when Luca Venituci magically intervenes as a "shoulder", an accordion player who seems as if he was custom made for the musical world of Read. The vibrant, small voice of his instrument is rich in harmony; it exhalts and deliciously enriches ballads like Jealous Heart and Gardens of Flowers. But the restless Otis begins to gesticulate and fling his arms open and stamp his feet; he grumbles, gets up, sits back down, and suddenly and disorderly stretches his spider legs. And when he is finally calm, a leg of his stool breaks from underneath him and he winds up on the floor. "No matter, no matter" he says, to reassure us.
The New York singer-songwriter has had a lot of experience in clubs such as the Folkstudio, and has given many peculiar concerts, peculiar in the sense that the distance — not just physical — from the stage to the audience is very reduced, if not not-existent. So the dialogue is continual and direct, with an exchange of feelings between the artist and the public; he first expresses his thought, presents his ideas, and tells us how and why the song was written. Unfortunately for a singer-songwriter, Otis only knows two words in Italian: "grazie mille," so the dialogue has some difficulty before getting started. In order to justify becoming "nerrrvous" again, he has perhaps handled the microphone poorly, which slowly lowers and bends like the neck of a chicken, as if showing its intention to peck at the guitar. Otis suprisingly observes the "chicken", then looks at the public, smiles blissfully, and says, "no matter, no matter," and assures us by gripping the microphone with two hands as if to strangle it. Beppe Glillo is a zombie in comparison. Someone in the audience has a laughing fit. The applause is spectacular and thunderous. We don't know if it's because the evening has taken a less serious turn, in the musical sense but not in the comical one, or if this was all previously planned.
Nonetheless, on the stage it materializes, as if by magic, as it does for the fabulous Mike Cooper with his vast baldness and metallic National steel guitar, playing since 1928, an old friend of those who love high-quality blues. In short, the skinny and lean Otis Read comes accomanied on his left by Luca Venitucci and his massive 120-pound accordion, and by "professor" Mike Cooper on his right, who is sitting with his National on his knee. Childishly happy and a bit disoriented, Otis becomes affectionately immobile so that he is only able to tangle his feet in the knot of cables and jacks on the floor, despite his useless, frenzied, repeated attempts to free himself.
So, made harmless, here is where he begins to make music like one should. Resuming the humble ballads, beginning a bit like Bob Dylan, we recognize the influence of greats such as Dave Van Ronk, who Read very much appreciates. He moves very freely from folk to blues to country to acoustic rock roots. The evening is now flying with wings full of great music, and takes a decisive turn which is entirely spontaneous, and becomes a jam session, playing and improvising as much as one can, and having as much fun as one is able to.
As always happens when mixing inspirational sincerity with the joy of making sounds in the company of fellow "brothers of music", it is the enjoyment of improvisation, technical skill, and total control of one's instrument that creates that magical harmony between more than one person with equal musical sensibility. It's the jam session, we've already said it, an experience that is more and more rare these days, not to mention completely unknown to many among the latest generation, yet incredibly diffused in the Seventies.
Luca Venitucci creates an almost interminable series and continues to lace and fringe the music and the songs of Otis Read, adding a delicate and transparent background vocal or also as a binding between the sung, accompanied musical phrases and the guitar. At his side, Mike Cooper intervenes like a splinter, giving strength to Read's ballads. The sound is hard, strong, metallic slide, languid but harsh and sharp, together inserting that rhythm which is missing and, above all, creating that musical syncope to instill a sort of "sense of anticipation" in the listener, increasing his interest and heightening his intake. Otis Read's voice and guitar, the harmonious "binder" of the accordion, the piercing sound (are we allowed to call it desperate?) of Cooper's steel guitar seems as if they were purposely made to melt together without flaw. This final sound comes out fully, full of eccentric improvisations, spins, strays, unsteady, in order to return to unify in one consistent, melodic dialogue. Then to pick up again in the never-ending game (in English it is well said: "play") of expressing yourself when creating music in a jam session.
That's why impromptu ballads have flourished in country rock, which were probably written as just ballads and nothing more. And then the blues arrived to drive us wild and make us joggle in our seats while it seemed, to us in the audience, that it had to do with a talented, unknown singer-songwriter from the U.S. — a kind of Bob Dylan from the Nineties but much more fun — who would tell us of his social-intimist needs. Fortunately, we are instead taken by surprise and over each one of us, a happily amazed public that has been saturated with crap from San Remo, is poured incomparable rhythms and sounds. Splendid, in our opinion, is the jam session for Bye Bye Bird, and we shamelessly admit it, Have a Good Time All Night Long made us want to dance. Otis, who is electrifying, yet wrapped up like a mummy in the cables of the amplifiers and lights, which makes it impossible for him to make another mess, together with Mike Cooper and Luca Venitucci, has given us two encores after having been asked back with savage screams, that perhaps he had never dreamed of receiving.
Review courtesy AllAboutJazz.com)
Deck the Halls
Otis Read | North Star
Acoustic guitarist Otis Read offers up an enjoyable acoustic straight-ahead jazz program of holiday favorites. The program swings along in a laid-back, cool, comfortable groove from start to finish. I wouldn't call this "groundbreaking," but it's good. On some tunes, the band plays it fairly close to the melody, while others feature more adventurous improvization. Interestingly, the primary lead voice on the CD is that of saxophonist Bruce Abbott; the leader assumes a supporting role and rarely solos. Pianist Willie Myette contributes some nice solos and collaborated with Read on the arrangements.
~ Dave Hughes
Track Listing: Angels We Have Heard on High; Good King Wenseslas; The First Noel; Joy to the World; What Child is This/Greensleeves; Deck the Halls; While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks; We Three Kings; Silent Night; Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella/I Saw Three Ships; We Wish You a Merry Christmas; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Glory, Sing Glory; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.
Personnel: Otis Read - acoustic guitar; Willie Myette - piano; Bruce Abbott - tenor, alto, and soprano sax, flute; Marty Ballou - bass; Marty Richards - drums.
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