CD REVIEW: Jeff Cochell - Between the Lines
By Cyrus Rhodes
Genre: Acoustic, Folk
Sounds Like: Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen
Drums go against the Grain, loosely knit harmonies, production
lacks peak and valley, needs more instrumentation
& musical variety
Portland, Oregon acoustic guitarist Jeff Cochell releases his “Between the Lines” debut CD in the spring of 2010.
Logging in at just over 41 minutes the CD kicks things off with “Lay Down Your Hand” an impressive melancholy ballad served-up with steady acoustic groove, catchy vocal melodies, and hooky vocal accents from Cochell. Track 2 “When You’re on your Feet” is another impressive track that dishes out impressive blues rock guitar licks, solid psychedelic groove, and impressive vocal layering and foundation from Cochell. Track 3 “Only if the Sun Don’t Shine” shifts gears a bit with passionate harmonies, and thought provoking lyrical content. The music is slow, melancholy, and goes down easy - reminiscent of a modern day Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, or Gordon Lightfoot. The Baritone delivery of Cochell refuses to try to hard, and sounds strikingly similar to Jim Croce. His vocal style works well, and fills the sonic space peacefully, and unobtrusively. Cochell holds his own pretty good vocally in the bare bones acoustical setting. As the CD slowly unfolds, its obvious Cochell is an accomplished acoustic guitarist (writer, composer, player). This music is pure acoustic folk sung from a deeply honest perspective - like on “When you’re Gone” and “My Back’s Against the Wall” While other are full of deep conventional wisdom: “Baby” and “Fading out of Blue” The defining moments for me are the sad but true moments - “Between the Lines” and “Release Me” this is where we see the true brilliance of Cochell shine through. Once again - Cochell’s guitar playing is classically mesmerizing as he showcases some truly masterful playing, fingerpicking, meloc accents, and fretwork phrasing. Just listen to “Somewhere” and “When You’re on Your Feet” to hear what I'm talking about. My favorite piece on the entire CD is by far Track 2 “When You’re On Your Feet” This impressive track slithers across your ears almost like classic “Pink Floyd” with tight psychedelic groove, amazing vocal harmonies and melodic structure, and a grand slam chorus.
Though Cochell’s vocal style works I wish he took a few more vocal risks here and there showcasing more raw emotion. Emotion to powerful to be choreographed. Drum rhythms, beats, fills, tend to lack groove, and at times don’t mesh well with the music. Listen to the drum fills on “Release Me” to understand what I’m talking about. Some of the mixes, songs lack dynamic and need more “Peaks and Valley”. Some vocal harmonies lack pitch, synchronization, and clearly need to be tightened up a bit. All tracks pushing 4 1/2 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. in a bare bones musical production such as this, more instrumentation is needed to fill the empty space better.
Overall Between the Lines is an impressive release from Jeff Cochell. It’s strong suit is it’s overall consistency, lyrical wisdom, and bold straightforwardness. Make no bones about it; It took raw honesty to write some of these songs. What I like most about Jeff Cochell, is there is no "sing songy" attempt to sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that do and show us something real and genuine. Jeff Cochell is one of these artists - he is clearly not trying to be something he's not. Jeff Cochell will work best on days you want a delicate acoustical setting to fill your sonic atmosphere. If I could say anything to, beside the aforementioned: add a bit more musical flavor to your next musical production. Things like stand up bass, pedal steel, mandolin, fiddles, viola, cello, piano, banjo, percussion, whirly bells, celeste, harpsichord, wash board, and even a saw would work well adding even more musical dimension to your overall sound. This can be done without losing the solitary musical foundation. You've also proven how effective you are at staying in the pocket during slow parts, but don't be afraid to exit that comfort zone, and really push that emotional envelope during the chorus, or some of your other parts. In close Cochell’s playing, writing, and conventional wisdom are impressive. He tells each tale with hope, passion and pure honesty. When this CD is over you will be dazzled by his guitar playing, touched by his vocal presence, and mesmerized by his wisdom.
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