Looking Into the Sun
Looking Into The Sun By Tim Gartland The harmonica, variously called "Mississippi Saxophone," "French Harp," "Mouth Organ," "Tin Sandwich", "Gob Iron," is cloaked with a unique mystique. It's devotees are global in community, and utterly besotted in their devotion to this pocket-sized musical instrument, whose voice is a primal cry of the heart. Tim Gartland is among it's most learned and passionate practitioners and Looking Into The Sun, his first solo CD, attests to this fact. For all his other mighty talents, he is first and foremost a consumate harp player. But Tim is that rare combination of inspired instrumentalist, unique vocal stylist, and gifted songwriter. The fraternity of artists who can claim that hat trick is a select group and when you narrow it down to harp players/vocalists/composers it comes down to four living artists: James Harman, Mark Hummel, Rick Estrin, and, now, Tim Gartland. Let's break down the hat trick piece by piece, starting with Gartland the songwriter. Every song here is a Tim Gartland original. Like Harman he is a storyteller, and a wry one at that. Even his titles suggest narrative, like "My Phone Said We Talked (Last Night)". His lyrics range from the gritty day-to-day ("One bathroom for a family of nine/If you want your privacy/You got to stand in line.") to the haunting refrain "Wished I'd-A Met You/When I Was Alive" in the song of that title. Gartland the singer is the most distinctive of the three. His characteristic lilt is unmistakable and there's no one quite like him. Years of determined study of vocal technique have paid off and his technique is put to great purpose with his deeply felt interpretation of his lyrics. His singing is the perfect companion to his harmonica playing. Gartland the harp player is a synthesis of the greats of blues harmonica. His carefully crafted tone finds a sweet balance between thick and thin, honk and horn. Gartland's music has it's roots in blues, but calling this album "blues" would slight it's diversity. Just listen to Home Right Now to gauge it's diversity. He takes a familiar real estate slogan for advertising urban condos, "If you lived here, you'd be home right now", and turns it into a lament of lost love by adding the word "still". Walking the house alone, lost without the one who's no longer there, he leaves the porch light on, just in case. These country-style lyrics provide the foundation for one of the album's surprising highlights, the Kevin Barry steel guitar solo. It lasts a mere 23 seconds but it is 23 seconds of pure heaven. The title track, Looking into the Sun, is most surprising. It is a poetic indictment of Wall Street Greed. "The money changers all have fled/Now they're sleepin' in warm beds/They turned fools into gold/Then they knew just when to fold." Gartland turns a familiar phrase inside out when he declares that a reckoning is at hand: they'd better "Run, don't walk/The time is done for talk." Gartland's musicians are great craftsmen, who play with a conviction. Most cuts were nailed on the first or second take, with little or no over-dubbing-a sign of decades' experience. Besides Kevin Barry on guitars, Tom West plays keys, Paul Justice plays bass, Alan Waters on drums and Mark Early on sax. Watch out for Tim Gartland. This album is his promise of more great things to come.