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All Fires the Fire

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Album Review

Brian Cullman sings, plays guitar, and writes all of the music on this set of light rock/pop/contemporary folk oriented songs that all tread a similar typical emotional path of life, love, introspection, and insular self-awareness. His voice is quite plain, even lackluster, missing a sense of gut-wrenching fire and overt passion as the title of the disc suggests. Instrumentally, his guitar work is unremarkable. It's more of an internal light and warm going to cool reserve that Cullman prefers, never turning up the wick or sizzling on any single tune. The saving graces of the set are the always beautiful background vocals of Ollabelle's Fiona McBain, jazz saxophonist and flute player John Ellis, and supportive keyboardist Glenn Patscha. While not able to lift this music to a higher level, they help keep this low-key music at a consistently even keel. Themes range from commentary on the aging process during "As a Man Gets Older," the delicate songs of separation "Missing You by Miles," and departure on "Goodbye," or the pleasant refrain of "Sweet Companion." More compelling are the funky blues with atmospheric flute of Ellis on "Somebody Calling My Name," the Autumn song "Somewhere Else" with a New Orleans rhythm influence, and the somewhat instrumental New Orleans to Canada late night/full moon howl triptych of "The Secret Doors" shaded by lap steel and electronics. A sleepy French waltz, "J'Attends" is enhanced by McBain's la-la's, and is the one track that, though pleasant enough, doesn't fit. Perhaps Cullman's publishing company Songs on Toast suggests this is morning music, a time for reflective contemplation, repast and replenishing as the day slowly winds into afternoon. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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