Susan Hamlin

Magic

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    5
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Susan Hamlin has deep folk roots, drawing from bluegrass, Celtic, and blues, and Magic finds her comfortably surveying all of these genres. Although Hamlin has written several of these songs, most come from other writers -- some familiar, some not. The arrangements are simple, mostly acoustic, and supportive of her vocals. There is an excellent version of "Morning Blues," a song that works perfectly with Hamlin's voice. She is joined by Joan Crane, who adds some nice fingerstyle guitar, giving this tune a perfect Piedmont blues feel. "New Age Swing" is a catchy piece of retro-jazz, complete with trombone and clarinet, while the graceful "Mountain Waters" is complemented by tin whistle. Hamlin's version of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" sounds more Irish than the original, adding uilleann pipes and a backing vocal by Neil Anderson. Throughout Magic Hamlin is supported by talented guests, including vocalist/fiddle player John Kirk, mandolinist Chris Leske, and bass player Don Young. "The Gift" is the only instrumental on the album, a relaxed Celtic tune that is sure to conjure up images of the seashore and ocean. The only criticism is that several of these songs -- "Blue Moon," "Jambalaya," and "Streets of London" -- seem overly familiar, and her versions rely heavily on previous ones. This is somewhat balanced by choosing less-known songs like Butch Hancock's "If You Were a Bluebird." She trades vocal with John Kirk on this song, and it is one the most pleasing cuts on the album. Overall, Magic is a good effort, combining traditional music with original songwriting.

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