The Audio Beat Review: John Crossett
Barry Diament, producer, recording engineer, chief cook and bottle washer of Soundkeeper Recordings, has released a number of excellent albums. I have many of them and have enjoyed them, even if not all are quite to my own musical tastes. All have something worthwhile to hear, and all are superbly recorded. However, with The Twain Shall Meet by the Cosmic American Derelicts, Diament looks to have married both the best musical and sonic qualities of his previous efforts into a complete whole. This is, to my ears, the finest album I have ever heard from Soundkeeper and among my favorite albums, period. It is a recording that I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying. Combining elements of bluegrass, country, folk, Southern rock and Americana, the Cosmic American Derelicts have recorded an album that finds and pulls on the heartstrings of a listener's musical soul.
The Cosmic American Derelicts were founded in 1998 and include George Kapitanelis, band leader, bass and tambourine; Scott Lauro on vocals, harmony vocals, guitar and banjo; Danny Pavas on vocals, harmony vocals, guitar; Ed Rainey on harmony vocals, Dobro and guitar; and Nick Reeb on fiddle. They have toured the US and the UK, leaving a trail of fans behind. This is their fifth album, so they obviously are doing something right. As you can see from the choice of instrumentation, this is a group used to intricacies of acoustic instruments, along with the use vocal harmonies. Diament recorded this album live to the microphone and direct to stereo, and I don’t care which version you listen to, the CD, or one of the many downloaded forms, you will be startled by the "liveness" of the sound. The CD had me checking its provenance again, so startlingly good was it. Then the 24-bit/192kHz WAV files took the excellent CD sound and ratcheted it up about ten notches. But no matter which one you choose, you will get the absolute best sound that particular format has to offer. Voices sound like they're in the room, and the room sounds like the recording barn/studio. Instruments are set in their own acoustic space, and those instruments have a sense of realness I have rarely encountered. Listen to the acoustic bass, hear the fingers pluck the strings and then hear the enormous cavity of the instrument excited into sound. Hear the bow pulled across the strings of the fiddle and how easy it is to tell the difference between the plucked banjo strings and those of the guitars. I consider this some of the absolute best sound I have ever heard.
But the real stars here are the songs. Each one rings true to its deep roots. There may only be ten tunes that run about 35 minutes total, but I am guessing you will be playing and replaying this music repeatedly, so overall length will not be an issue. Starting with the opening track, “New Half Step,” from the fiddle work to the banjo plucking, to the harmony vocals, the song will touch you, as will the balance of the tunes. Personally, I enjoyed “Whispers on the Wind” and “Oh No,” “Waylon” and “Speeding Train” for the wonderful music and superb harmonies of Lauro, Pavas and Rainey. No, the voices are not smooth and soothing, but rough, gruff, and used, which perfectly matches the music. If you ever get the chance to see these boys live, do not pass it up.
The Twain Shall Meet is, to my ears, Barry Diament’s greatest achievement to date. It marries totally enjoyable music to sound that will display all of the realism your system is capable of producing. I am also willing to bet this becomes a go-to disc to demonstrate why we audiophiles spend so much time and money putting together a stereo system: to hear music and sound like this.
FATEA Magazine UK Review
1Artist:Cosmic American Derelicts
Album: The Twain Shall Meet
The South Jersey five-piece have been busy in recent months, recording both a full on blues rock album and an R&B one for release later this and early next year, respectively. In the meantime, this has them drawing on bluegrass, folk, swampy blues and old time country, all recorded live with no overdubs on one Connecticut day last summer.
Using imagery about rivers flowing and drying up, 'New Half Step' is a post break-up number, but rather than wanting her back, fiddle taking a solo, they sing "if you give back my ring girl/I'll pawn it for a new guitar". 'Yankee' is a celebration of their roots "Yankee you can call me, but I feel I'm a Southern son…Sittin' on a porch somewhere outside Savannah", while, a particular stand out, 'Lighthouse Keeper' is about the singer consigning himself to a life of solitude, watching the tides and signaling the ships after some senorita ran away with his soul.
Ed Rainey on dobro and Nick Reeb on fiddle, 'Whispers On The Wind' is a restless, lonesome wanderer song, always called by the open road while elsewhere Oh No' provides the obligatory murder ballad ("It was him or I who was gonna die…well I dug his grave for his soul to save"), though here it's likely in the context of two soldiers confronting each other, presumably, given the band, with a Civil War backdrop, and 'Woods And Water' is an Appalachian bluesy lament of a musician too long away from home, "chasing demons for a song".
You might assume 'Waylon' was about the legendary country outlaw, but is in fact their contribution to the old school country staple tradition of singing about a loyal dog that's now died, blessed in suitably melancholy form with the line "all that's left is an empty collar". They then round things off with another highlight, the backwoods prayer ("truth be untold, I'm a man without a soul") waltzing strum of 'Let Me In' and two bluegrass numbers for good measure, the staccato punctuations of 'Pine Song' and the rollicking 'Speeding Train' with a delivery that matches the title. Demonstrating a complete mastery of and affection for the music they play, it would be a clear cosmic dereliction of duty not to seek it out.
Review By DME Let It Rock https://dmme.net/dme
With the spirit of prairie on their collective sleeve, restless seekers of rootsy paradise get sequestered in a barn to unplug and get away with it.
Lately, this band have been on a roll, laying down pieces penned in different genres – bluegrass/country, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm-and-blues, which form separate song cycles arrayed for release in the near future – and playing around on their own and with Terry Reid who’s also ready issue an album of the quintet-composed numbers, yet “The Twain Shall Meet” had to get out of the ensemble’s system first, for it’s the closest to their country heart. Recorded in a 200-year-old barn in the hills of Connecticut, the platter is as stylistically refined and nuanced as it is deceptively rustic, almost homespun, in terms of delivery and emotions that are, in fact, rather sophisticated and always sincere, with a twist thrown in here and there to keep the listener riveted to the proceedings – and often beaming because not everything on offer turns out to be what it seems.
Take, for instance, “Waylon” which, instead of paying tribute to a certain outlaw, unfolds into a tender ode to an old dog, a similar, if more defiant, pining for the past set in from the off, once “New Half Step” locates sadness in the hootenanny sonics where the filigree of dobro is woven into guitars’ strum before voice and violin begin their sweet swirl on the sawdust-covered dancefloor to the groove that’s delicately dictated by George Kapitanelis’s bass. With Scott Lauro adopting a drawl and Nick Reeb’s fiddle panning across the Appalachian landscape, the group marry Northern and Southern idioms, the titular twain, in “Yankee” whose vocal harmonies are heavenly and an acoustic six-string solo celestial, while the dry “Whispers On The Wind” evokes the springtime smell of faraway valleys. However, the barely-there instrumentation of “Oh No” distils it to diaphanous despondency – contrasted with impassioned singing – and “Woods And Water” slows the flow for “whiskey weed” to go down with a tuneful anguish, “chasin’ demons for a song” in warbler and writer Danny Pavas’ own words. And though the ensemble try and keep their vibe as pure as possible, a blues link will be revealed when banjo licks flood “Pine Song” to morph despair into merry memories, the destination of “Speeding Train” which closes this magnificent album at breakneck speed. Such variety of moods is the key to the record’s relatability and accessibility, so one doesn’t have to play cowboy to feel the “Twain” appeal.
New Reviews for The Twain Shall Meet
"...The album is a nice blend of tunes, excellent musicianship, great finger-picking, and nice vocals. The band plays together with excellent blending and support of the various musical voices throughout. I really enjoyed the variety of instruments used throughout to create variety and increased musical interest. This is music-making with vitality and integrity. It is music-making to enjoy!... As I first listened to this album, my immediate reaction was: Oh, indeed yes. Something very right is going on with this recording… This sounds real, it is authentic. It sound fresh and clear and open and very much a real performance in a real space. "
- From Rushton Paul's Soundkeeper Recordings - Bringing The Live Performance at posi+ive feedback
"The reflective and melancholy songs are well crafted, and very well performed...the album is a joy to listen to... With the mainstream music business churning out ever more material that has more to do with technical wizardry than the talent of the artist, there is a small but noticeable backlash with smaller companies like Soundkeeper Recordings producing the equivalent of what we call Real Ale here in the UK... Straight away, I noticed the real impression that I was listening to something that is as close to being at a live performance as we can have from a recording... As I listened I could feel myself in a wooden cabin, somewhere in the mountains, a wood fire warming the room, and the band playing away in front of me. Not many recordings I have heard over the years, have done that anywhere near as well as this recording."
- Read Nick Whetstone's review at TNT-Audio
"Cosmic American Derelicts somehow succeed in drawing your Old Scribe's attention to the Scottish, French & Irish influences (direct or via Canadian, Cajun journeys)... Unrequited love, rage & revenge are key lyrical themes, reinforced by musical syntax that invites coherent responses with the key signatures, modes & cadences behind the words & vocal melody... Your Old Scribe may be biased, but no amount of cortisol raising descriptive bloodshed & panic will ever substitute for the adrenaline of wide dynamic range & an unexpectedly interrupted cadence. The Soundkeeper Recordings preserve more of the dynamic range than the typical mainstream loudness wars of CD's & radio edits. The arrival of the physical format CD version exemplified this... The higher resolution download is worthwhile, especially as it better reveals the extraordinary care taken to capture the performance accurately in single takes."
"This is a highly recommended recording of fine musicians making an original contribution to the great American songbook."
- Read Mark Wheeler's review at TNT-Audio
"It’s notable that the recording method encourages a careful choice of music and venue. And attentive listening takes you there and then. There’s a palpable sense of situated musical event... Real music, not engineered by machines. Restrained and honest, in both the musical performance and the way the recording is done. That’s what I hear from this 10-song album... Justice would see this music find its way into many listening rooms. If the band’s name strikes up some curiosity, the musical experience will be both surprising and rewarding... This is an enjoyable tasteful addition to the Soundkeeper Recordings catalogue that will immediately appeal to those of us who are fans of Barry Diament’s signature clean and dynamic "real" sound (I’ve written enthusiastically about it in earlier reviews).
Welcome a foursome of Jersey boys bringing a country-rock/bluegrass sound to the stables on Songs From The Homestead. Composed of new lead singer/guitarist– Scotty Lauro, Ed Rainey on guitars, banjo, mandolin, dobro, lap steel and vocals, George “The Greek” Kapitanellis on Fender bass and Sotiri Karlis on drums. CAD brings a sound that is original and has no boundaries. There are even elements of bluesy rock mixed in with a real old-man-on-the-back-porch bluegrass feel.
The real, true country sound comes by way of Lauro’s vocal approach, mixed with various instruments such as the banjo and mandolin. Funny part though is that the title of the record has nothing to do with a country-western theme. The name actually comes from a street in the group’s hometown, Homestead Place, and is where they recorded this album. So, a nice play with words because the overall sound definitely matches the title, but the real irony is that it has nothing to with horses and ranches. Very creative on the part of The Cosmic American Derelicts—touché!
I have to say the main ingredient ,the heart, soul and driving force behind the power of this record has to be Ed Rainey on guitar. Rainey’s guitar-playing ability shined through on many songs; extremely dominant and with a pronounced display of sound. Rainey provides killer guitar licks along with edgy rock riffs blended together with just sweet finger pluckin’. I need to get Ed Rainey to help me out with Guitar Hero, so I can finally get past Easy Mode! Rainey has that WOW factor on guitar and adds immensely to the distinct sound of CAD.
“Barbed Wire Bed” is a song that really has that grab-your-partner-doe-si-do feel and Bedside pulls heavy on the heartstrings. All the songs blend well together and build as the album plays on. Starting on a high note with Sleepwalkin Killer and ending on a super-high note with “Roctopus,"this track definitely rocks heavey and has the entire band coming together nicely in an all-out mind melting instrumental exploration. Great sound, great finish and over six minutes of long and pure musical exhilaration.
By Jimmy Rae
Rating: 4 stars