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Published: 2004/05/29
by Jamie Lee

Spark – Reed Foehl

Strip Reed Foehl’s music down to its core, and the result is typical songwriter’s fare: a voice, an acoustic guitar, and a guitar case full of imagery so rich that it’s reminiscent of a bite of Grandma’s Sunday cake. But the Boston-born Foehl isn’t satisfied with the bare tools of the modern day minstrel. Instead, programmed drum and keyboard effects, sparse instrumentation, and an emphasis on notes both played and unplayed form the backing of his wistful solo debut, Spark.
Foehl honed his songwriting skills and acoustic touch playing with former band Acoustic Junction, with whom he recorded five albums over eight years and played more than 1,200 shows. So it is no surprise that Spark is fortified by an impressive, polished approach both in sound and content, and furthered by the ample backing of drummer Danny Bernini, guitarist Joe Boyle, Jeff Bova on keys, and a host of other contributing musicians.
"The Remedy" opens the album with a digital drum beat; a plush landscape beneath Foehl’s airy vocals and deliberate, sparse guitar strumming. His vocals and guitar resonate with a lilting clarity, and the stories Foehl tells interlock with glossy tones, as on the title track with its simple song structure bolstered by synthesized effects. One of the most impressive tracks isn’t even one of Foehl’s own. It is an elegant cover of Bob Marley’s "Turn Your Light Down Low," that retains an immaculate reverence even without the reggae backbeat. Foehl demonstrates his ability to add texture to the most trite chord progressions, so his capabilities are obvious, albeit restricted as on the predictable piano-driven "Give You More."
At first listen, its impossible not to hear the resemblance between the vocal style of Foehl and David Gray, but a distinction between the two is found in the air that floats among the textures that move each of Spark’s dozen tracks like a light breeze blowing the curtains through a half-open window. Unfortunately, that breeze fluctuates often, becoming still and near lifeless at times, leaving the album uneven. But with talent coursing through his fingertips and drifting through his voice, Foehl’s future looks bright, and has been soundly lit by this first Spark.

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