Album Review

Keith Greeninger - Soul Connection

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Greeninger’s Soul Connection paints eleven sublime sonic landscapes

The duration of the 11-song Soul Connection is more than 67 minutes. Do the math, and an average song of over six minutes results. The shortest song lasts four-and-a-half minutes, the longest veers toward double that length. The verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and out three-minute duration simply doesn’t apply, rather what we have here are, in the main, extemporisations -- sublime sonic landscapes if you will -- in which the listener can envelop himself.

I stumbled across Greeninger and what was ostensibly the band Water, including long-time collaborator Dayan Kai, at the 1999 Kerrville Folk Festival. Greeninger’s approach to the marriage of word and melody hit me like a sledgehammer -- an undeniable case of hook, line and sinker. At the time, this former City Folk alumni had a single solo recording to his name. Excluding his subsequent side trips with Water and Dayan, Soul Connection is only the third collection to (solely) bear his name. While I’ve notseen him since 1999, each new Greeninger release automatically sets my anticipatory juices flowing. 

Co-produced with long-time collaborator Tim Prince, Santa Cruz-based Greeninger is supported here by the core band of James "Hutch" Hutchinson (bass) and Ricky Fataar (drums), from Bonnie Raitt’s band. There's also Little Feat’s Bill Payne (piano, keyboards, B-3 organ), and time-served colleague Randy Ray Mitchell (electric guitar), once a sideman for the late Warren Zevon. Also making appearances, on the odd song, are regulars Kai (vocals), Steve Uccello (bass), Art Alm (accordion), Jimmy Norris (percussion, drums) and more.

“It’s a good day to be on your way” is the oft-repeated phrase in the optimistic “Good Day", and the spirit of those words launches Greeninger’s latest musical journey. The seven-minute song features a short mid-way solo and a 90-second outro with prominent contributions from Mitchell’s guitar and Payne’s piano. The latter’s B-3 propels the ensuing and soulful “Love for a While.” Two selections were recorded sans Payne and Co. -- the melodically wistful “Face Of Love” finds Keith share the lead vocal with his 15-year-old daughter Tenaya. The funky “Shake It” is the first of a pair of Kai co-writes. The second, “Surprise”, is a duet with Jill Knight.

Where the foregoing handful of songs -- most focus thematically on love -- fit the "sonic landscape" parameter, the wistful and acoustic Tex/Mex ballad “Guadalupe Eye’s,” a portrait of saints, contrite pilgrims and death, is blessed by pitch perfect input from Alm’s accordion and Barry Phillips’ cello. The message in “Hop in the Truck” is delivered with a light and deft touch, and reflects upon the plight of (casual) workers who come from Mexico, only to be sent back there when they’re no longer required:

I got work, you want to make a buck
You want work man, hop in the truck

As for the wall dividing those nations, Greeninger imagines the citizens “glare at each other through the razor wire / laser beams and the burning tires.”

The almost nine-minute “Jimmy and the Crows”, replete with sterling fiddle work from Chris Lynch, and the ensuing eight-minute “Enough For Everyone”, which features Bruce Hornsby-inspired piano from Payne and righteous vocals from Nadia Lewis, find Greeninger back in sonic landscape territory. He lays his latest effort to rest with the gentle and reflective “Close to the Soul”, co-written with Larry Diehl -- a former HP executive now performing as asinger-songwriter.

Brought to you from the desk of the Folk Villager.