About the artist: Chris is a passionate singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His songs are the stories of a travelling troubadour expressed through warm vocals and playing guitar, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, spoons and stomp box.
CD review by John Hamilton
Chris Aronsten lives at Sandy Beach on the Mid North Coast of NSW.
The cover notes indicate that the album was recorded “mainly live in the studio with a minimum of overdubs”.
No doubt, this contributes to the immediacy of the collection.
He’s played at many festivals, abroad and in Australia, incorporating many instruments.
This CD collection is traditional folk rock.
Think of early Fairport Convention.
Here are story folk tales complete with wanderers, forests, brooks, hedgerows, lovers’ meetings and partings, a sailor’s life, grief and references to the devil.
This description is particularly true for The Blacksmith, The Deluge and The Last Kiss.
Though there’s a predominance of grief in the tales, and a lot of sad recollection, the accompaniments are positive and affirming.
There’s also a sense of the troubadour imparting love songs.
The varied instrumental accompaniment is both lively and gentle, including fiddle, mandolin, guitar, acoustic bass, accordion, and occasional drums.
Chris did two Australian tours with Maddy Prior and has supported a vast range of traditional singers, including Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, Bert Jansch, Christy Moore, Fairport Convention, and more.
Heaven’s On Fire opens the collection with a mid-tempo welcoming dance tune complete with echoing female vocals, mandolin, guitar and fiddle.
“Sometimes when the devil comes calling,
“You’ve gotta let him in for some sweet sin”,
“Heaven’s on fire and we’re singin’ the blues.
Big Wide Starry Sky transitions to grief and sounds like an early Martin Carthy song.
He’s waiting in the forest, sleeping under the desert sky and listening to the dingo’s call, where his former love “will always be mine” and where “the dingoes call my lullaby”.
The Shadow of the Skiddaw is almost a jig, with plucked mandolin and button accordion: “This summer I went walking…. through the woods”.
My Wings Take Flight, a love song, has an accordion solo:
“Dreams they lie in boxes underneath the stairs
“I think that’s where I’ll leave them, for I know you’re waiting near”.
Venus and the Sun is quite fast-paced with driving guitar and an upbeat mandolin solo – a foot-tapper: “When Venus passes by the sun I’m in my resting place”.
The Graveyard Waltz is about lost souls, but it’s quite a jaunty number.
Similarly, The Last Kiss is a bittersweet celebration of a lost love.
The final track, Ray, is in a similar vein, with a more wistful tone.
He has a strength as a balladeer, and in this song, his voice and delivery really display it.
He wearily croons:
“Now I hope your soul will rest in peace
“Your pain is gone and you can find your sleep
“With your voice ringing in my ears
“What you really gave me were your tears”.
It has a lovely baritone guitar solo.
It’s a great finisher, to this varied, poignant and fun collection.