John Gorka

Out of the Valley

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From the opening gospel-tinged track, "Good Noise," it is clear that John Gorka is pushing his music into new territory. After years in the Northeast, Gorka recorded Out of the Valley in Nashville with producer/guitarist John Jennings. The results are mixed. By recording in a professional studio, Gorka appeared to set his sights on breaking into the mainstream with a glossy production and upbeat songs designed to give him more airplay. This is also made clear by the use of multiple guests including Kathy Mattea and Mary Chapin Carpenter. While the album rocks a bit more than the typical John Gorka release -- the track "Mystery to Me" reveals his wicked sense of humor about the mysteries of attraction -- many of the dense musical arrangements do a disservice to his powerful voice. In fact, some songs require background singers, and it is unusual for Gorka to write songs that require other voices to create a fuller sound. That being said, there are few tracks (including the title track) that are among his best. For example, "Flying Red Horse," in which the only instrumentation is a guitar and the voices of Gorka and Mary Chapin Carpenter, demonstrates an amazing imagination and an ability to captivate with great storytelling. This is not his most consistent effort, but there are a few gems that make this album worth checking out for fans.

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