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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Hiram Ring
Label: Ring Records
Times: 12 tracks/53 minutes
Robert Wadsworth Lowry. You know him? I didn't, until I listened to Hiram Ring. Lowry was a preacher most famous for his hymns in the 1800s. The one we most recognize today is "Nothing but the Blood" (I thought Jars of Clay wrote that?? J). Hiram is most famous for being born in Ghana in the 1980s. Yup, his parents where missionaries to Ghana and Afghanistan. So I guess that might lean him towards the evangelical, preaching side of Lowry -- at a stretch. Possibly?
Nah. Hiram writes songs that are anything but preachy or evangelical but are filled with hope. You can't miss the Christian influence, communicated with honesty and sincerity, thus avoiding becoming preachy. He sings songs about life, love, etc, and God is just a natural part of that. The twelve songs are stories about (his?) life told in five parts from salvation to eternity. So I guess that the album as a whole (concept) could be called a hymn. Maybe.
Hiram Ring, who now lives in Pennsylvania, started his own label, Ring Records, to release this material. He has written all the tracks and produced all but two. Hiram is in the mold of folkies like Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. As with all -- well -- most indies, the biggest letdown is production. However, I have had this on repeat at home and on my iPod for the last week, and it is just starting to wear thin now (most don't last more than a couple of days of constant repeats).
What makes this album, Breathe Deep, so good is Hiram's penmanship. He is a great songwriter/wordsmith. Combine that with the airy guitar-based folk of his musical style, it makes for an enjoyable listen. The album flows very well. But it will pleasantly catch you by surprise here and there. For example, the album opens with a song many would consider a closer: a song filled with imagery telling the story of navigating through life's journey grounded in someone's love. It is a very laid-back tune opening with Hiram's mellisonant, honeyed guitar playing, accompanied by some subtle accordion, bass, cello, violin, and light brushed drumming. All combine with Hiram's bright and airy vocals to launch you straight into a chilled-out track. Huh?
The songs pick up, and there is some of his African influence coming to the fore around track three, "Chasing Shadows." Just when you are getting into the folk type of grove Hiram is in he changes everything on you in track six. "One Girl For Me," Hiram steps way outside his folkie style and starts to croon you, Harry Connick Jr. style, with a jazzy tune. He follows up with another on the next (title) track, "Breathe Deep," which also includes some improvised drum and piano solos.
This is a very good listen. It is poetic, musical, and honest. Hiram has put together an excellent album full of hope you can sit down and contemplate your navel to, or just play for enjoyment. For an interview and a song, visit the website: http://www.monkeywhale.com/video/harveys-kitchen-hiram-ring/