This album did not come with any promotional details or biography and Cary Morin is an artist previously unknown to me. I noticed this CD was released back in 2014 in the USA, so perhaps it is only now available in the UK.
Anyway, a quick visit to the website provided the necessary biographic details. Born in Billings, Montana Cary is the Son of an air force officer and is a Crow tribal member, which in part accounts for his multiple performing influences. He cut his musical teeth young and since founding a band in 1989 has been playing live ever since. Lauded as a solo, acoustic blues performer he has toured extensively and won several musical awards. However, Cary has a very eclectic career including stage parts, plays and sound tracks, so I would suggest the interested listener also visits his website for a more detailed perusal.
Musically, his sound has been described as 'timeless' in that he would stand out among the old school delta blues players, the Greenwich Village folk crowd at the end of the 1950's, the back to nature bards of the late 60's, or today's thriving singer/songwriter scene.
All very intriguing, so I was looking forward to hearing the album.
A sweetly picked intro leads into track one, 'Angels and Devils' which is very much a blues based number using that traditional trick of repeating the third line of the verse and then doubling or playing back the melody on guitar. This ably demonstrates his nimble fingers and his alternating bass thumb technique gives that lovely 'two guitars at once' illusion. A reasonable reference point might be Kelly Joe Phelps in feel and delivery with those almost whispered, softly husky vocals.
Track two 'Yellow Dog Blues' is similar but more propulsive rhythmically and the title track 'Tiny Town' features even more stunning playing where the notes just roll and cascade over one another beautifully.
His take on the old blues standard 'When The Levee Breaks' slows things down a bit with a dead thumb, shuffle feel and for the first time features someone and something other than his solo guitar and voice. The harmonica fills of his guest, Jean Jacques Milteau, play off his rhythm and flesh the sound out very sympathetically.
So far so Blues, but on track five 'Broke Down Place' the sound changes to a more traditional Singer/Songwriter idiom and this is a real stand out track in my opinion, boasting a fine vocal as well.
Cary's guitar playing is without question highly impressive and I would suggest to anyone interested in such things to check out the many videos on his website and witness his amazing technique, plus a bass thumb that seems to have a life of its own!
However, his voice although clear and solid, is not always that distinctive and this is most evident on some of the overtly blues numbers. On the rootsier, acoustic tracks his vocal has more depth and character to my ears, perhaps because he is not so constrained by the blues form and structure so his voice can lead the guitar, rather than follow.
Styles vary on other songs, a little Jazz, a straightforward love song, a short instrumental and the country nuances of 'Not Ever Again' with its pedal steel guitar accompaniment. This is the best track on the album in my opinion and features another fine vocal.
'Wrong Side Of The Law' is a further blues track following the well quarried theme of the title, but it is lifted to something more substantial by another guest spot from Jean Jacques Milteau on harmonica.
This album very much feels a solo venture by Cary with him penning most of the songs and accompanying himself completely, apart from the two tracks featuring Jean Jacques Milteau. It also has a 'recorded live' feel, which is a strength, not a weakness, as it ensures the songs push, ebb and flow with a real life. I imagine the only thing added on to the basic tracks after the first take was Cary himself playing pedal steel guitar on 'Not Ever Again'!
Personally, I would have liked a few more of the songs fleshed out a bit, particularly with that lovely harmonica, just to add a little more variety and dynamics.
However, there is no denying this album is an authentic 'what you hear is what you get live' showcase for Cary and his marvellous playing, varied song writing and solid voice can only serve to raise his profile further. I am not sure when he last played in the UK, or indeed if he ever has, but I can imagine him right at home in Acoustic, Folk and Blues venues all over the country.
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