Reach for the Stars — a Review
by Victoria Parks, Host of Folkin’ Around with Victrola, WGRN Columbus

Very few artists take their songs straight into my heart like Elaine Mahon. Upon listening to her Rise (2013) CD, I heard an honest, gorgeous, yet unfamiliar voice, singing simple, imaginative melodies and lyrics. With her absolutely honest folk songs, Mahon crosses over into jazz too. Mahon’s jazz vocals shine through her folk songs with a beautiful dissonance that resolves in perfect harmonic cadence. Mahon writes honest folk with an uncommon, simple beauty. It is obvious Mahon is a gifted channeler of her muse. Her rich alto becomes lilting, lovely when she decides to lift her uniquely beautiful vocal melodies into her upper register. All her songs are distinctly different and consistently well-crafted with emotionally intelligent lyrics and simple, lovely guitar arrangements. Poignant stories evoke emotions I did not know I possessed, but also joyfully remind me of some I had forgotten. I plainly hear an artist with a command for crafting a bridge as well, with memorable, singable refrains, as in Rise Up Singing (Rise 2013) and now with Lean into Love on Reach for the Stars (2017). The remarkable Rise disc teased me with songs that ignite the imagination, like Honey Tree. This was the song that tipped me off that I was not hearing just any ordinary songwriter for the first time. So, what more could I expect from Elaine Mahon with her 2017 release, Reach for the Stars?

Mahon delivers everything I expected from her—more brilliant songwriting. Mahon’s songs inspire with simple, beautiful melodies, an honest, true voice and a sense of wonder that threads throughout all the songs on Reach for the Stars— both for the natural world, and for the many gifts of the life experience. For example, Look Up marvels at our micro place in the macro universe and articulates what a precious blue dot in space we live upon.

There is so much of a mother’s love in this disc. It is fitting that the title track be a most beautiful expression of a mother’s love with Reach for the Stars. The beautifully written You Are Not Alone wraps you in love’s warm blanket, nurturing space for the troubled heart. The hymn Lean into Love advises the sad and lonely to not give up, but to hold to love. Shine encourages with a powerful, melodious, positive attitude adjustment, that allows the spirit to breath- to shine in the light of self empowerment. With the enchanting When My Mother Sings, Mahon also invites the listener into the nurturing comfort of the love and beauty we all receive from our Mother Earth. Spring joyfully wells from the depths of the heart where Mahon, having perfected the art of the simple melody, then shapes it with beautiful harmonies. Mahon mourns the loss of paradise with Sweet Florida. As polluters have ravaged Florida’s wetlands and rivers, Mahon articulates a sense of loss, giving voice to the grief so many of us feel at the destruction of our Mother by big polluters. With Denali, this Alaskan mountain lyrically becomes a graceful, beautiful woman, a powerfully majestic mother overlooking the Arctic horizon.

Mahon tells a great story with her crafted, emotionally intelligent lyrics, but she is also succinct, identifying emotions we all experience. There are multiple moments listening to Reach for the Stars that envelope you with the love of home and family, of joy and longing, of loss and letting go. The heart rendering Rebekah, expresses the loss of a kindred soul and the longing for her as Mahon discovers the comfort of Rebekah’s voice singing through her own. Shadows Dancing puts lyrics to the common experience of wrestling with the shadow self and learning to let go. The moody, jazz influenced, The Other Side of Midnight, restlessly navigates you through a sleepless night. Afterglow, an evening song for lovers, gently cradles you in love’s deepest connections. Rolling Home is a beautiful expression of love for the one who keeps the home fires burning, as it tells the story of coming home from the road late at night, and the joy of returning to a loved one’s arms.

Reach for the Stars is generous with moments of joy, a sense of wonder and a mother’s love. I am so impressed with this disc, this artist. Mahon proves once again she is a songwriter of great sophistication and imagination who, melodically and lyrically articulates a natural sense of beauty, nurturance and personal empowerment. One can hear her commitment to perfection in her superbly crafted songs.

Mahon has fulfilled all my expectations for yet another artistically masterful collection of original songwriting. With every track on Reach for the Stars, jazzy, folky, hauntingly beautiful vocal melodies and harmonies nurture the soul. Reach for the Stars is, at the least, worth multiple listens and is deservedly, at best, on the forever playlist. Reach for the Stars should be on every folk deejay’s playlist in 2017. It is my hope that Elaine Mahon continues to write these wonderful songs. I want to keep sharing them with the world.

©2016 Victoria Parks


Elaine Mahon’s latest gem, Reach for the Stars, is the expression of a unique combination of essences: her artist’s sensibility and her astronomer’s perspective.

With her compelling vocals, confident guitar work, and elegant arrangements, Elaine explores large-scale questions while reflecting on the fine details of human interactions. Her lyrics are by turns plainspoken and romantic, yet her poetic vision remains true throughout the album. The tracks are warmly and cleanly recorded, and they are infused with a spaciousness that allows the songs to breathe and develop naturally as we contemplate themes both universal and personal.

Beyond giving us a lovely record that deserves attentive listening, Elaine has accomplished something quite profound. With grace and with gentle wisdom, Reach for the Stars reminds us to “look up” and look within, fearlessly, as treasures abound in both places.

Vicki Ambinder
Music Performance Coach
Artistic Consultant
www.vickiambinder.com


Review of Reach for the Stars by ROOTSTIME

Met haar derde CD snijdt deze singer songwriter uit “Sweet Florida” nog meer dan op haar vorige, “Rise” waarover in deze kolommen mooie woorden gezegd werden, een aspect van Het Leven aan dat haar, als gediplomeerde astronome, nauw aan het hart moet liggen: wie ben je, als men? Wat beteken je, in het licht der eeuwigheid? Welke plaats heb je en welke rol moet je opnemen? Dat zijn voorwaar snel gestelde, maar niet licht te beantwoorden vragen, waarvoor je enige maturiteit bijeengegaard moet hebben om er aan te durven.

De stijl die Elaine hanteert, is zonder omwegen als “folk” te omschrijven, maar dan wel in de Amerikaanse betekenis van die term: muziek van mensen en die de Mens ook centraal stelt. Een vrouw van de leeftijd van Elaine, met haar opleiding en haar reeds geleefde leven, bekijkt de mens dan vanuit haar standpunt van moeder, partner, reisgenote, astronome…en dat leidt tot heel mooie momenten op deze plaat, die vooral uitblinkt in eenvoud: de melodieën zijn eenvoudig gehouden, de begeleiding is nergens overdadig en al bij al draait het om de essentie, die je kunt samenvatten als “schoonheid”.

De stem van Elaine is fraai, al kan je eraan horen dat de dame al geleefd heeft. De arrangementen van de songs draaien vaak om nauwelijks meer dan een gitaar, ofwel akoestisch ofwel heel zacht elektrisch, een toefje mandoline van Gabe Valla, een simpele baslijn van Low Williamson, wat fiddle van Jason Thomas of cello van Hannah Alkire en harmony vocals van Penny Nichols, Elisabeth Williamson en zoon Sam Mahon.

De thema’s van de liedjes zijn precies diegene, die ’s mensen leven beheersen: de liefde, met de droefenis en eenzaamheid, die ermee gepaard gaan, de onvoorwaardelijke liefde van een ouder voor zijn kind, de wereld waarin we leven, de natuur, de sterren die ons leven mee bepalen…enfin, dat soort beschouwende dingen, die de mens als hunkerende, falende, hopende, proberende, liefhebbende, afwijzende, afwezige, dromende….zwerver ( zie “Lean into Love”, “Afterglow”, “You Are Not Alone”, “Rebekah”…) afzetten tegenover de machtige natuur (“Look Up”, “Denali” -die song gaat over wat vroeger Mount McKinley heet en tegenwoordig Mount Denali genoemd wordt, de hoogste berg van Alaska,”Spring”,”Reach for the Stars”).

Schoonheid troef op deze plaat, die bulkt van de knappe melodieën en de heerlijke zangpartijen en die uitermate geschikt blijkt voor een zondagochtend, dat moment waarop je even achterom kijkt naar wat de voorbije week meebracht, terwijl je nog niet in beslag genomen wordt door de alledaagsheid van de week die eraan komt. Liefst in rustige omstandigheden te savoureren en alleszins in één lange luisterbeurt, waarin geen plaats is voor alledaagsheid van krant, radio of jengelende kinderen.

(Dani Heyvaert)

Translation

With her third album this singer songwriter from “Sweet Florida” touches even more than her previous one, “Rise”, of which nice words were said in these columns, an aspect of life that to her, as a graduate astronomer, must be close to her heart: who are you, as a human being? What is your purpose, in the light of eternity? What place do you have in this and what role must you play? These are indeed quickly asked, but not so easily answered questions, for which you must have garnered (gained) some maturity to face.

The style used by Elaine is absolutely to be described as “folk”, but in the American sense of that term: music of people that also focuses on the people (person/individual). A woman of Elaine’s age, with her education and her life experiences, looks at the person from her position as mother, partner, travel companion, astronomer … and that leads to very beautiful moments on this album, which excels in simplicity: the melodies are kept simple, guidance is nowhere excessive and all in all it is about the essence, which can be summarized as “beauty”.

Elaine’s voice is fine, but you can hear that the lady has lived a life. The arrangements of the songs often revolve around little more than a guitar, either acoustic or very soft electric, a hint of mandolin by Gabe Valla, a simple bass line by Low Williamson, some fiddle by Jason Thomas or cello by Hannah Alkire and harmony vocals by Penny Nichols, Elizabeth Williamson and her son Sam Mahon.

The themes of the songs are exactly the ones that control people’s life: love, with the sadness and loneliness that accompany it, the unconditional love of a parent for his child, the world we live in, nature, the stars that define our lives as well… well, that kind of perspective of man as a yearning, failing, hoping, trying, loving, rejecting, absent, dreaming … .vagabond (see “Lean into Love”, “Afterglow”, “You are Not Alone “,” Rebekah “…) against the backdrop of mighty nature (” Look Up, “” Denali “-which song is about what used to be called Mount McKinley and now called Mount Denali, the highest mountain in Alaska,” Spring ” “Reach for the Stars”).

Beauty prevails on this album, which is full of beautiful melodies and wonderful vocals and proves perfect for a Sunday morning, that moment when you look back at what the past week has brought, while you are not yet occupied by the triviality of the week to come. It is preferable to savor this in a quiet environment and in any case in one long listening session, which leaves no room for triviality of newspaper, radio or whining children.


Singer/songwriter ELAINE MAHON offers on her latest album ‘Rise’ 14 peaceful late 60s/early 70s Woodstock style Singer-Songwriter acoustic guitar tingled music with beautiful Gospel like harmony vocals. It reminds one of a JOAN BAEZ, JUDY COLLINS, EMMYLOU HARRIS, MELANIE, JONI MITCHELL and such. Elaine has a truly wonderful clean voice and there’s a not single weak moment on the CD to be found. One of the absolute highlights is the calmer “One by One”, a haunting melodic ballad that captures a retro early 1970s feeling that is rarely heard these days. Also “The Selkie Bride” is a song you don’t want to miss, because this is almost sounding like KATE BUSH, so Elaine can even go up very high vocally! If only the rest of the world discovers the talent of Elaine, well you can start by checking out her site at:  http://elainemahonmusic.com/
Gabor Kleinbloesem – Strutterzine (The Netherlands)


Elaine’s stated philosophy is “song is what my voice is for”, and with such a crystal-clear pure voice leading a chorus she can make anyone rise up singing, it would seem. But her songs rouse the spirit as well as the voice, with the joy of being alive; we learn that those on Rise, her second release, came during a time of awakening following a period of deep personal exploration, discovery and change.

Informed by personal, mythical and historical stories, Elaine’s most popular recurring themes are the resilience of the human spirit and the power of hope and an appreciation of our place in the natural world. Her songwriting embraces simple but magical airbrushed images from nature (One By One, This Garden Place and the delicate dobro-bedecked Rio), tales drawn from her ancestors’ experiences (Dust Tracks In The Road) and a crazy dream (Honey Tree, whose gorgeous melody line and banjo-flecked accompaniment uncannily recalls the classic McGarrigles sound). Elaine also delivers a pair of intriguing imagined-perspective songs: the first, the incredibly tender Harvee’s Song, is written from that of a dear friend’s late husband (the incredibly tender Harvee’s Song, while on the second, Elaine posits life as a woman of Florida’s indigenous Calusa tribe. As evidenced in particular on the disc’s final pair of songs, So Small and Give It Up, a keen sense of wonder also figures large in Elaine’s worldview, which comes across as both contemplative and tranquil, contented yet thought-provoking, delivering an optimistic yet honest commentary on the human condition. The Selkie Bride is Elaine’s persuasive revisit of the Celtic myth, viewed through the prism of John Sayles’ movie based on that legend.

Throughout the album, Elaine’s sensitively crafted visions are accompanied by masterfully classy musicianship from Lon and Elisabeth Williamson, Jason Thomas, Penny Nichols, Tuck Tucker, Gabe Valla and Dave Kelsay – and here’s a special mention for Hannah Alkire, whose gorgeous cello playing graces three of the album’s finest songs including Rabbit Hole (on which Elaine has the insouciant air of early Joni Mitchell). And yet, another of the album’s standout tracks (Six Pelicans) finds Elaine in multitracked harmonious a cappella mode in an attempt to capture a transcendental experience. Actually, it could be said that much of this album forms a transcendental experience for the listener, for Elaine is an extremely able communicator, enthusiastic in her beliefs without overplaying her hand – a skilful balance indeed.
David Kidman Fatea Records


“Rise Up Singing” is the opening track on the new album (her first since her 1995 debut and subsequent years raising her son) from the Gainesville astronomy PhD turned singer-songwriter. And that’s exactly what she does throughout all 14 tracks, her voice spookily reminiscent of the young Judy Collins with the same clarity and crystal purity and at others evocative of the jazzier shades of Joni Mitchell.A childhood spent amid the Florida woods and beaches finds expression in the nature imagery that grace her stories and aural portraits, notably so on “Rio” with its poetic line about paintbrush fields and the transcendence of the unaccompanied “Six Pelicans” which, harmonising with herself, makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle.The inspirations behind the songs come from many different sources: the tender cello soothed “Harvee’s Song” a trad folk styled number sung from the perspective of her friend’s late husband; the Iris DeMent-like “Dust Tracks In The Road” recalls her husband’s maternal grandparents who homesteaded in South Dakota; channelling Bobbie Gentry, “56’ Blue Chevy” recalls trips to the store in her mother’s beaten up old car; and seeing John Sayles’ “The Secret Of Roan Inish” prompted “The Selkie Bride” revisitation of the old legend. Recalling Mitchell, “Calusa” even finds her imagining life as a woman of the indigenous Florida tribe.

Others spark from something as simple and as magical as a chain of fireflies reaching to the treetops (the dreamy jazzy rhythms of “One By One,”) the wildflowers in her front garden (the heady “This Garden Place”) and, on the tender “So Small”, visiting a friend’s premature baby daughter in the neonatal ward.

The album closes with “Give It Up,” a song about surrendering to the wonder of life and the alchemy of songwriting itself. She clearly has a joy in singing. You should share in it with her.
-Mike Davies of NetRhythms, www.netrhythms.co.uk


Originally from Gainesville (Florida) singer Elaine Mahon’s new release RISE, proves to be a very special album with her velvet voice evoking memories of Judy Collins in her younger years. RISE contains fourteen tracks with beautiful background vocals by Penny Nichols and Elisabeth Williamson. This folk tinged album radiates tranquility with engaging and incisive lyrics that both captivate and inspire the listener. After a long period of absence, in which she gave priority to motherhood and family life, Elaine Mahon is back with a glorious album containing songs composed during that time. An album of exceptional quality.
Gerrit Vermeij Muziekvenster  www.muziekvenster.nl


This singer/songwriter from Gainesville, Florida is a gem worth knowing. Fans of folk, Americana and singer-songwriter genres will find Elaine Mahon’s new album “Rise” easily accessible. With honest and imaginative lyrics, as well as a pinch of social criticism, Mahon writes songs with captivating, moving and thought-provoking stories which, in addition to her beautiful, crystal clear and elegant voice, are her greatest strengths. These strengths have drawn much praise from the contemporary folk community. “Rise” is one of those rare works that draws you under its spell and keeps you there for a long time. A poetic and musically compelling work.
Max W. Achatz of Country Jukebox, Munich, Germany


Even though Elaine Mahon holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy she is becoming more famous as a singer.  Her new album, “Rise,” breaks almost two decades of silence since the 1995 release of her debut album “Seamless.”  The 14 songs on “Rise” provide almost an hour of playtime.  Included in this  rich repertoire of songs are a few in the the personal vein such as “Rise Up Singing,” “This Garden Place,” “Six Pelicans” and “Honey Tree.”  The lyrics of Mahon’s songs, in keeping with American folk tradition, tell stories that almost anyone, anywhere can relate to. Mahon is as good at telling stories as she is at singing and thanks to this, even the simplest story is experienced like an enjoyable film conjured up by the singer.
-Czékus Mihály of Gondola www.gondola.hu


In her 1995 debut, Elaine Mahon was in the last month of pregnancy. Though she devoted herself completely to motherhood following her son’s birth,  the stories for her new songs took shape while her son was growing up.  Sensitive to the natural beauty around her, Elaine finds much joy in singing. This joy is expressed in the opening song, “Rise Up Singing,” in which her bright expressive vocals are supported by the wonderful harmonies of Kim Blackburn and Penny Nichols. Mahon grew up in Gainesville, Florida where the natural beauty of her surroundings in the woods and on the sun-drenched beaches clearly inspired songs such as “One by One,”  “This Garden Place” with it’s jazzy rhythm, and the a capella song “Six Pelicans.” Sparse arrangement of acoustic accompaniment creates a musical landscape which optimizes her best stories.  Very touching is the story about her friend as she proceeds following the sudden loss of her husband, with a mournful cello emphasizing the sad tone of “Harvee’s Song.”  Some of the old photos in the cd- booklet are of her husband’s grandparents on the prairies of S. Dakota. These photos inspired the song “Dust Tracks in the Road.”  “56 Blue Chevy” is a melancholic, bluesy look back into her childhood in the South.  Perhaps this fine collection will not be heard immediately on the radio, but in the living room, close beside the purring cat,  these tunes create a particularly beautiful and relaxing oasis in this hectic world.
-Cis Van Looy of Keys and Chords, Hungary


Elaine may evoke a comparison to a young version of Judy Collins because of Elaine’s crystal clear voice over a tasteful acoustic instrumentation that is woven adeptly around her songs….Rise is a very relaxing and enjoyable listen. -Freddy Celis – ROOTSTIME – BELGIUM


…love Elaine Mahon. Sensible and sensitive writing married to genuine melodies…My kind of album
– Len Holton at KUAR, Little Rock, Arkansas


I love Elaine Mahon’s voice and her ethereal arrangements. Dreamscape songs that touch the heart with whimsy and delight. To coin a phrase, “what could be better than that!” – Maggie Ferguson WXOU


….it takes a lot to make you happy, and Elaine Mahon’s album RISE does it with every note she sings. What makes this record great is her vocal range–she truly sings like bird. – John Shelton Ivany JSITOP21.COM


Elaine Mahon is channeling a deep spirit in her beautiful, enchanting, and moving songs. This is the most beautiful album I have heard in quite a while, every arrangement complements the song perfectly. The vocals are rich and compelling. I think you will treasure Elaine Mahon’s new CD, RISE for years to come”
Penny Nichols, multiple Grammy nominee


Elaine’s lyrics are lush landscapes, filled with imagery and details. Many of the songs give lilting accounts of historical events, and you will be drawn into each story.  The songs also highlight Elaine’s love of Florida’s waterways resulting in moods varying from playful to restful, just like any nice day at the beach!  This is a beautifully produced CD, with great arrangements and harmonies. Lovely stories, haunting melodies, woven with Elaine’s rich voice and a multitude of instruments make this an enticing CD to spend some time with.”
Sue Riley, emPower Music and Arts


Elaine’s voice is pure and beautiful, and mercifully it is prominently mixed on the lovely CD “Rise”. If you’re not totally absorbed (which would surprise this listener) don’t fail to notice her fine songwriting. There’s a lot to enjoy here.” –David Roth – Performing Singer & Songwriter


It comes through loud and clear that Elaine Mahon put her heart and soul into RISE. Combining themes of nature, personal family history, and self exploration with melodic, lush arrangements, this recording exudes a commitment to letting her songbird sing! In a cluttered, noisy world, RISE is a musical meditation that sets its compass towards the sacred and offers a much needed walk through nature, offering rest from the struggle and a vivid reminder of the beauty that abounds.  ~ Joe Crookston – Performing Singer & Songwriter


Elaine is a new friend in our lives. From the very first song of hers that I heard, I felt I had a kindred spirit. Her songs carry you on journeys of the heart along with soulful contemplations. From childhood memories to mystic love, “Rise” is a great ride. – Elisabeth Williamson – Gatorbone Records


Elaine Mahon’s new CD RISE is a powerful contribution to the tradition of the singer-songwriter. There’s not a weak point here: her voice, which sounds most like a young Judy Collins, is strong and full of conviction in the low range and pure and sweet in the upper register. The harmonies blend effortlessly, whether they are her own or those of a variety of backup singers, notably Penny Nichols and Elisabeth Williamson. The songs themselves set gorgeous melodies to a wide range of topics, from Selkies and Native American myths to modern dreams and stories, a barbed-wire Jesus and a ’56 Chevy. Elaine’s guitar work is delicate and unobtrusive but features some unusual tunings, and her backup musicians, all highly skilled, are tasteful throughout, always letting the spirit of the music itself dominate their individual performances. Elaine Mahon has left us a generous gift of songs that evoke the very tangible stuff of our experience even as they transcend any easy interpretation. ~ R. Brandon Kershner, Alumni Professor of English, University of Florida


Great collection!   I have been enjoying it since it arrived earlier this week. I particularly appreciate “Dust Tracks in the Road.” The photos are very striking. “This Garden Place” is poetically and ecologically Voltarian. You reveal the beauty of Florida in August, not an easy feat. “Blue Chevy” is bittersweet and poignant. “Rio” is very Western and beautiful. It’s an impressive memorial to the disappeared. “Rabbit Hole” is a wonderful tune of inspiration. “Six Pelicans” is, as you say, transcendent. “The Selkie Bride” reminded me of London’s “Call of the Wild.” You sing it beautifully. “Honey Tree” is a pleasure to listen to. “Give it up” is catchy and ever fascinating. Thanks for making such a wonderful CD. ~Michael Seidman


A mud-splattered gardening session provides a larger sense of oneness with the natural world. A childhood frustration with a temperamental car ripens to a cherished memory of mother-daughter bonding. With her gracefully reflective new album “Rise,” Floridian Elaine Mahon reminds us how effectively the act telling a story with music can express how a given experience can prove pivotal or transformative. This elemental songwriting approach may now and then be eclipsed by others in the folk/country toolkit—those grounded in personal confession or recrimination, for instance–but “Rise” reasserts storytelling’s potential to extract broad meaning from ordinary events or to clarify one’s place in the world. In a clear, conversational vocal that acquires a diaphanous shimmer as it climbs, Elaine renders a series of vivid character portraits–biography, reverie, allegory and memoir—with an attentively woven fabric of details, and with empathetic melodies fitted to the emotional contours of each moment. The result are songs that place us intimately within the settings described, and allow us shared witness to each development and disclosure.

Some of the songs suceed on narrative force alone. In the family history “Dust Tracks In The Road,” an uprooted couple’s yearning for permanence proves harshly ephemeral against a series of horse-drawn dislocations. The mesmeric “Calusa,” which recreates the daylong vigil of a native Floridian as she looks forward to the return of her tribe’s coastal fishermen, transforms the daily act of waiting into a sacrament, and the worried mending of nets into a kind of faith offering. And in “So Small,” with a musical setting evoking delicacy and wonderment, the awed parents of a premature newborn confront humanity at its most vulnerable and miraculous. In these, the revelations emerge not from any contrived wisdom or editorial high-mindedness but from the sheer photographic clarity of the observed moment at hand.

Elsewhere, elegant metaphors capture states of being or the challenges of transition or trauma. In the a cappella “Six Pelicans,” an array of birds in flight evokes the elusive confluence of heart and mind. The charming “Rabbit Hole” recasts Lewis Carroll’s familiar portal first as a vortex of fear and self-doubt, then as a pathway for personal renovation. In “One By One,” set at dusk at a riverside campsite, the gradual flickering-on of visible stars and fireflies inspires a concurrently enlarging appreciation for enduring love. And in “Selkie Bride,” an odyssey of distance and loss, the primal sorrow of maternal longing finds both expression and release on the song’s plangent swales of melody.

The album’s acoustic arrangements are lean but not spare, suggesting scrupulous consideration. Each guitar phrase or cello line does what each song seems to ask for, and the result is a fully satisfying presentation. And in these days of online cherry-picking, “Rise” renews the pleasures of album continuity by beginning and ending the program with thematic bookends. The opener, “Rise Up Singing,” celebrates writing and performing, and the closer, “Give It Up,” reaffirms and also vindicates those efforts, this time with references—hope, inner worth, “the wonder of stars up above”–to some of the very discoveries explored in the preceding songs. In these rare instances the album’s tone turns moralistic and exhortatory, but even here the writer takes care to judge herself before others. For the most part, we are not told how to live or what to believe in, but “Rise” is nonetheless a highly decent and moral work. Its main job is tell stories, and that is where it succeeds: by describing what happened, who else was there, and why it matters. – Scott Barnes


More often than not, the title of an artist’s release is less an indicator of what’s contained within than simply a witty catch-phrase, or even a song title that just sounded like it might fit. With Elaine Mahon’s SEAMLESS, though, it is truly an accurate description. This is a brilliant and cohesive piece of work.

For the endurance of SEAMLESS, Mahon weaves an impassioned web that offers both seduction and inspiration. Generally opting for a stepped-down, acoustic based delivery (highlighted on the endearing lead track Clear Autumn Day,) Mahon sings from the heart with a rare conviction.

As is typical for many in the female singer/songwriter fold, Mahon is telling stories of life and love (both lost and found) though her music. Whether it be personal or observational is difficult to discern at times, – what’s obvious is that it speaks to the listener, offering empowerment and comfort. Even the more rocking numbers such as Night Drive and Sometimes are revealingly personal.

A wide array of notable performers from the region made various contributions to SEAMLESS including: Pat Koch and Eric Steinberg of Big White Undies, Mindwalk’s Ali Che’ree (bass) and Ryan Newell (slide guitar) of Black Creek. The gathering of such an ensemble not only reaffirms the quality of this recording, it indicates a rare level of mutual respect and cohesiveness.

To say that Elaine Mahon is inspired would be an understatement. What’s conveyed on SEAMLESS transcends inspiration, and more often borders on spiritual.

~ DJ Justice, Independents Editor, JAM (Florida’s Music Magazine)

 

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