|Guitarist Charlie Ballantine comes from North Webster, IN.|
The guitarist is well disposed to see the work of providence in his musically cohesive ensemble, a quintet now including Josh Espinoza, organ; Amanda Gardier, alto saxophone; Conner Green, bass, and Josh Roberts, drums.
The new album, self-released and available through charlieballantine.com, is a journey touched by several musical styles,
Those curious about how the band puts across this material in concert might be interested in the CD release party Friday, May 6, at the Jazz Kitchen.
There's a lot derived from blues and country guitar styles in the course of the nine tracks, most of them originals. The band plays well together. As a composer, Ballantine has a gift for working his way into your attention, and holding it, with simple melodies. Gardier is particularly adept at helping him maintain the music's melodic sheen.
I like the rapport they display in "Eyes Closed," which gathers energy to mount a soaring climax. Taking a ballad and ratcheting up the emotion at length is a popular way to proceed, and can be overdone. I think it works much better here than in the performance (also about eight minutes long) of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." The seductive charm of that song escapes me, but many people who hesitate to buy a recording if they don't see a familiar title in the program are likely to be drawn in by "Hallelujah." Bless their hearts.
The heart of the CD, however, is the title piece, which distantly evokes a hymn sung with gentle fervor on a Sunday morning in a country church, then seems to evolve into a ballad of lost love scratched out and crooned on somebody's front porch later that day.