The curious will occasionally take the trouble necessary to read an album's liner notes in search of a bit of insight into the music and artist. Today's CD-ROMs save the listener even that trouble. Just click "play" and there's Mark Erelli explaining why he recorded his new album in Memorial Hall. The organic setting, combined with the building's history -- dating back to 1884 -- offered the right ambience for a handful of songs. It also offered Erelli a chance to dig deeper into his Massachusetts roots. Traditional pieces like "The Drinking Gourd" and "Blue-Eyed Boston Boy" mix together with originals and a few borrowed tunes from other New England songwriters. "Dear Magnolia" casts a glance back to the Civil War, while "Devil's Train" serves up a healthy dose of Puritan religious imagery. There's also an eight-plus minute rendering of John Greenleaf Whittier's "Ichabod," set against a moody backing track. Bill Morrissey's "Summer Night" is probably the most winning song on the album, mostly because of its gorgeous melody, but one shouldn't neglect Erelli originals like "Call You Home" or the fun closer, "Goodbye." The recording location, choice of songs, and Erelli's confident delivery render The Memorial Hall Recordings a solid singer/songwriter effort.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.