DISClosure, CD Reviews: Trent Summar and the New Row Mob, and Carol Noonan

Trent Summar and the New Row Mob

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As Alternative Country (Gawd, I hate that term!) continues to morph and find its way within the confines of traditional country, artists continue to jump outside the Nashville box trying to figure out if they want to be the next Garth Brooks or X. Trent Summer and the New Row Mob is a prime example of the ongoing public head scratching, as their debut CD screams "Please look at me, but realize that I am the real deal!" The problem with this self-titled debut is there are great tunes that are comparable to Los Angeles’ The Blasters and X when they were in the prime of meshing rockabilly and country, but Summar plays it way too safe with a number of tunes that are screaming for today’s country acceptance. While the kick-off tracks "Paint Your Name in Purple," "New Money," and "Too Busy Missing You" illustrate the potential of this band, pathetic covers like "It Never Rains in Southern California" and originals like "I’m Country" quickly drag Trent Summar down. The truth is Trent Summar and the New Rob Move can surely play, but they have to decide if they want to play by Nashville rules or down and dirty country world. These guys have the potential in either world, but they have to make the decision.

Carol Noonan

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Folk music, one might assume, has gone by the wayside in these days of glitzy pop and splashy boy bands. In pockets and corners of the country, however, it is a staple. New England is well known for producing its share of prolific folk artists, and it is from this area that Carol Noonan hails.

Once part of the band Knots and Crosses, a New England phenomenon, Carol Noonan is no stranger to the music business. Her self-titled release is not her first solo effort. She previously released three albums under Rounder Records — 1995’sAbsolution, 1996’sNoonan Building and Wrecking, and 1997’sThe Only Witness. Despite success with Knots and Crosses, which sold 20,000 albums independently, and receiving critical acclaim for her solo efforts, Noonan found her music career a commercial disappointment. Retreating to her farm in Maine, she vowed never to return to the music business. Amidst financial hardships and struggling with her husband to make ends meet, Noonan began writing music again in spite of herself. This time she reached far back to her Celtic influences and folk roots and began writing what felt good to her as an artist. When the material was ready, she reconnected with longtime friend and former collaborator (once as a musician and once as a producer) Paul Bryan to make the album she always wanted to make. Bryan gave Noonan complete artistic control, something she had never experienced before in her music career.

The artistic control allowed Noonan to make an album that is a true reflection of her soul and inner musical voice. With beautiful palate of flavors, including electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, violin, viola, cello, and keyboards, adding to Noonan’s rich moving vocals, the album is a mystical and moving mix of folk and Celtic stories of life. Resplendent in moving accounts of love and self-examination, the album is completely captivating. Even those not familiar listeners to folk music will find this album compelling. The album’s first song, "Lost Soul," is a deeply wrenching personal account of Noonan’s own struggles. "Just Because" is an equally moving tale of raw emotion. Three traditional folk pieces, "Unquiet Grave", "Lagan Love," and "John Riley" add to the rustic theme. Rounded out by songs such as "Sonny," the rural sounds and moving words make this album a true folk masterpiece.

This feature originally appeared in MODE Magazine, September 14, 2000.
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