Stephen Cohen,
Stephen & the Talk Talk Band
(independent, 2004)

Stephen Cohen is a man of many talents. He plays acoustic guitar, creates his own percussion instruments out of metals, woods and scrap material, plays bells, panpipes and kaen pipes, and creates interesting music as heard on his CD Stephen & the Talk Talk Band.

The Talk Talk Band is essentially a group of guest musicians who help create the mosaic of work presented here. Included on the CD are Alan Ames (lap steel guitar), Bill Chamberlain (mandolin), Christopher Shotola-Hardt (bouzouki), Susanne Shotola-Hardt (accordion), John Twist (guitar, banjo), Alan Jones (drums, voice), William Thomas (drums), Abe Cohen (voice, guitar), Mateo Bevington (guitar) and Kate Davis, Steve Wilson, Katy Kaufman, Sue Rubin and Eleanor Chapman (vocals).

For such a large group of folks, this is a surprisingly short CD, clocking in at about 36.5 minutes. There are 13 tracks, but the longest songs are less than 4 minutes. Several selections don't even last 2 minutes. A lot of the tracks sound like they were recorded at an improvisational jam session. The lyrics are generally sparse. In most cases, I think the voices could be thought of as another instrument and that this is an instrumental CD.

Speaking of lyrics, the promo material mentions that Stephen has won several songwriting awards across the nation. I find that a little hard to believe considering how simple many of the words in these songs are. For example, in "Excuse Me, President," the extent of the lyrics is essentially "Excuse me, President/I've got something to say to you/Everything you do gives us cause to sing the blues." Those words are repeated for more than 2 minutes.

Take the appropriately titled "Talk to Me" track. Over and over you will hear "Talk to me! Talk!" by different voices. Think of those voices as some of the instruments and this is a good tune. But lyrically, it isn't a very imaginative piece.

If lyrics are important to you when you buy music then Stephen & the Talk Talk Band will not appeal to you. But if you like good instrumental folk music and can accept voice as another instrument, then this is not a bad disc. In fact, it is too bad that it is as short as it is. There is some intriguing material here.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 11 June 2005

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