Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Moon by Charlie Ortman

New Moon 1

New Moon
by Charlie Ortman
Private Release
Desert Rose Music 1986

A gem. This was a chance find on ebay, and my rip from the vinyl does not do it justice. Singer/songwriter Charlie Ortman got his start in Chicago and performed throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin for about 20 years. He even toured Europe briefly. This album from 1986 is his lone recording, a collection of original songs brimming with warmth and energy. I especially like the title song "New Moon," and "It Won't Take Long," a catchy but bittersweet tune about unrequited love.

The best thing about the album is Charlie's voice. He reminds me of Billy Joel in a way - a clear, powerful voice that renders the songs with nuance and feeling. He's also got a great group of background singers, and the vocal arrangements and harmonies offer solid support. The instrumentation is nice, but I think his vocal work is the best part. The songs have a dynamic range between long and short notes, and express a positive and energetic view of humanity. Listening to New Moon left me wanting more.

Charlie retired from performing in 1990, and is now a Unitarian minister. He's currently writing a book about his adventures bicycling across the US.

I hope you all enjoy this album as much as I have. This is definitely going to be on my car stereo next spring on my big road trip back home, as soon as I hit the Illinois border, heading east.

  1. Illinois Prairie
  2. New Moon
  3. Once Again
  4. Desert Rose
  5. Lady of the Ozarks
  6. It Won't Take Long
  7. Rainy Day Momma
  8. Will's Song
  9. Peggy Jones
  10. Spring Fever
  11. Mississippi River Song

Download New Moon Here

Monday, October 5, 2009

The October of Awesome

Coming up this month:

"New Moon," by Charlie Ortman
"La Belle Poisoneuse" by Guthrie Thomas
and an album by Bill Wilson, but I can't remember the name of it because it hasn't arrived yet.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Children of the Storm by Paul McNeill

Children of the Storm 1

"Children of the Storm"
Paul McNeill
Private Release

There are some people who really should have been more well-known. Paul McNeill is one of them. A British-born folksinger, Paul was a fixture of the London folk scene in the 60's, with a residency at the famous Troubadour Club, as well as associations and friendships that included Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny, Alex Campbell, Paul Simon, and Linda Thompson. He was one of (if not the) first people to ever record cover versions of Paul Simon songs. With Linda Thompson (nee Peters) he formed a duo that recorded several singles.

McNeill recorded two albums on Decca in the mid 60's, and then left the country and eventually settled in Fribourg, Swizterland, where he lived until his death. He died in Norway in 1989, of cancer. His later years as a busker and street musician in Fribourg provided the material for "Children of the Storm," his third and final album. It was a private release. I'm not sure how many copies were made.

The album showcases a proficient guitarist with a decent voice and strong, clear arrangements. It is the song lyrics, however, that really shine. McNeill's writing is poetic, specific, and compelling. I particularly enjoyed "The Cathedral" and "Cookie," although I wish I knew the stories behind the songs. The title track is rousing and epic. The album ends with "The Air I Breathe" which is joyful and celebratory. A fitting end to a long career. I wish he had been more prolific, because Children of the Storm is a short album, with only 8 tracks, and it leaves you wanting more.

According to the jacket, the album was recorded live. The engineering is not the greatest, McNeill's vocals are sometimes distant and overpowered by the excellent music, and there are several lines that I can't understand at all, which is why I did not type up the lyrics in this case.

Those who knew Paul remember him fondly, and I hope that others will enjoy this album as I have.


  1. Audrey
  2. The Cathedral
  3. Trooper
  4. Children of the Storm
  5. Prelude, Grandads Song
  6. Cookie
  7. Red Eye Blues
  8. The Air I Breathe

Note: This album is no longer available on my blog, but Paul's son, Marco, has created an official web site where you may be able to get it in the future. Anyone interested in "Children of the Storm" should check with him. Thanks!