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Hinge
Artist: Zoubek & Bryant
URL: http://www.zoubekandbryant.com
Label: Indie (WriteZB@aol.com)
Length: 45:14 minutes / 10 tracks

You could subtitle this debut album as "sea-side townsfolk who play really swell, wholesome folk music straight from an earthly-bound but heavenly-minded heart." Chances are you've never heard of them, but here is substantial proof that sometimes the best news is not the most well spread. Zoubek & Bryant's exposure under the moniker Threefold Cord on the  second Awakening Compilation last year speaks well of their reputation as a promising new Americana act. Canning the old title due to conflicts with other groups by the same name, Rollyn Zoubek & Scott Bryant have settled on their Simon & Garfunkelish epithet to represent the ten worthy original tracks on their smartly packaged debut disc.

Although like many Nineties acts there are hints of wider influences and assorted sounds, Hinge falls very squarely in the category of folk music. Every track offers soothing, inviting vocals accompanied by exceptionally well-played acoustic guitars, thick bass lines, deft percussion, and the occasional fiddle, piano, or organ bits to round out the sound. There is nothing here to overwhelm you, but lest you dismiss this as sleepy after-midnight music for the insomniac, Z&B's form of folk transcends your commonplace coffeehouse variety. This is not just another dismissible unplugged duet doing their best for an under-appreciative audience. Instead, their songwriting skills and talented delivery will cause you to perk right up and take notice.  Caffeinated beverages not required.

Hailing originally from the Connecticut shoreline, and now making their headquarters in a small seaside town in Massachusetts, oceanic images are poetically conjured in songs like "Shifting Sands" and "Whaling Town." Both are played so persuasively that you can almost feel the sand in your sandals and taste the salt-tinged air. However, much of their work warmly centers on relationships, like "Between Friends," which honestly questions the longevity of a friendship after one of the members weds his "true love." Other songs find spiritual inspiration as a beautiful source of sustaining peace. Undulating beneath the surface of these songs is a sturdy devotion to the God of creation and salvation that informs all their work. Nowhere is this more clear than their poetic bit of praise in "Pinpoint:"

    You painted this night sky bright white
    Each star a pinpoint of your light
    Shining through from the other side
    Where the secrets of your love lie
    You molded these waters with your bare hands
    Each wave tumbles from a perfect stance
    Crash the shore and disappear to another place
    Where love like water flows with divine grace
    You planted a garden in her heart
    Each stem your hands,
    Your arms reaching out
    For me to follow
    Leading me home.
Rollyn Zoubek's female lead-vocals are that rare form of world-class artistry that must be heard. She sings both deftly and emotionally, without resorting to either emotionalism or blatant showmanship. She also wrote and sang lead on about half of the album's songs, and Scott Bryant wrote and sang the other half. Whereas Bryant's lead-vocals sound less seasoned yet still engaging, his gifted songwriting and crack guitar playing make him more than the worthy companion to Zoubek's vocal talent. Two vocalists swapping leads can result in some album schizophrenia, but only a smidge here. Taken together, Zoubek & Bryant sound perfectly at peace performing with each other, especially when offering handsome harmonies on each other's songs.
    An after dinner chat out on the porch
    The wind was soft
    The waves were gently breaking on the shore
    Everything was peaceful on the outside
    But the inside of the man was slowly boiling
    As he opened up his heart...

    And this man I'm supposed to love
    But if I let his words into my heart
    They would surely break me
    And I really want to love
    But the canyon between us is too far
    Will you carry me?

Hinge is the kind of album that ought not to be relegated to obscurity, and although Zoubek & Bryant are a virtually unknown pair of folksters on the mere precipice of a potentially promising career, the time is right to become gently acquainted.

Order Information:   Write ZB@aol.com or visit http://www.zoubekandbryant.com

Steven Stuart Baldwin (8/12/99)

Wow! There are so many great singer-song writer around the it's hard to believe I'm calling your attention to another one but here they are--Zoubek & Bryant. Clearly falling into the folk category, they can hardly be called average.  Like Caedmon's Call and Simon and Garfunkel, they excel in simple well-played acoustic guitars and wonderful thoughtful lyrics which paint wonderful pictures of relationships using images of their Eastern seacoast home.  We've brought back Swing, and the big band sound, rockabilly, surf music. Isn't it time to give some of these great folk bands a larger platform and bring back folk as a major popular genre of music--start by today by pickup this album.

Shari Lloyd 10/29/99

 

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