Jeff Touzeau

Two Worlds Away (A Miner's Narrative)

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Jeff Touzeau's second album is hardly short on ambition: Two Worlds Away is a literate, lushly produced concept album about the 19th Century exodus of coal miners from Fife, Scotland to Millerton, New Zealand, where they were able to put their skills to work for better pay in a beautiful new land, though they would learn that didn't mean they left all their troubles behind. In some respects, the loose but consistent narrative of Two Worlds Away seems more like the stuff of a novel or a screenplay than an album, and it's to Touzeau's credit that even though these characters don't have names, their stories seem real and telling, and Touzeau never fails to give the story the scale it needs, both lyrically and musically. Touzeau has written several books on recording and audio engineering, and his skills in the studio are impressive; with producer Ian Catt, he's given Two Worlds Away a richly distinct and evocative sound, dominated by guitars (layers of acoustic and electrics which give the recordings a broad, dynamic feel) and vintage synthesizers (especially Mellotrons), and the results recall classic prog rock and art rock recordings of the '70s while still maintaining the integrity of the narrative and Touzeau's distinct touch. Touzeau's strengths as a songwriter and instrumentalist (he plays guitars and drums on these sessions) outstrip his gifts as a vocalist; while he has a fine tenor instrument, he doesn't bring as much variety into his singing as he does to his music, and as long as he tries to conjure a fairly large cast going through a remarkable adventure with his single voice, it's a more significant flaw than it might be otherwise. But in all, Two Worlds Away tells a grand tale of hope, adventure, and tragedy, and makes it come to life with modest means; it's impressive and compelling music that sets out to do something special and, for the most, part succeeds.

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