Scott Hallock,
(self-produced, 2001)

Scott Hallock's new solo release, Stories, would best be described as "eclectic folk." An acoustic singer-songwriter with a variety of instrumental talents, Hallock combines a number of different branches of folk -- as well as more contemporary music -- into a quite enjoyable album. Fans of acoustic folk, bluegrass, folk rock and pop music from the 1960s to today can probably find something which appeals to their tastes from Hallock.

Currently residing in Arizona, Hallock plays a good mix of instruments. Mandolin, harmonica, percussion, acoustic and electric 6- and 12-string guitars, bass and zube tube are included on this recording. Hallock plays each of these instruments with the skill of a seasoned veteran, although I'm sure that he's still a long ways from his retirement years yet.

This album deserves a lot of praise. Somehow, while including songs which could fit into several different generations and genres of music, Hallock manages to hold it together. Coming from a less talented artist, I imagine that the album would sound a little schizophrenic or disjointed, but this isn't the case here. Hallock maintains his own personal style throughout the album, and although each song is unique, they still fit together well. It's as if Hallock starts with a sound typical of a particular genre, then just takes out the good parts, uses them and adds his own flavour to it. This leaves the listener with the essence of a particular style which keeps the song within a certain comfort level, but at the same time adds new and different sounds which keep the listener interested and eager to hear more.

To go along with his instrumental talent, Hallock has a strong, pleasant voice with good range, and impressive lyrical abilities. His lyrics are relevant to the world today, and it is apparent that a good deal of thought and emotion have gone into them. Hallock is able to put his varied talents to work, and produces songs that are instrumentally, lyrically and vocally solid.

There were a number of tunes on this recording that strike my fancy. "Mr. Bear," "So Much More" and "Peace Song" are characterized by some great-sounding percussion, catchy tunes and well-blended instrumentals. Melodious vocal harmonies prevail in "Red Line" and "Summer Rain," while the instrumentals in "Grandpa" and "The Move" caught my attention. "Giant" and "Have" sound well-suited to perhaps the pop scene, but still have roots in the folk genre.

The album also contains an additional five tracks which were recorded by Hallock's great-grandfather, Franklin C. Shaffer. These tracks are old-time banjo tunes and make for an interesting listen, particularly for someone with an appreciation of the instrument. Although the age of the recording makes for the odd distortion in sound, the recordings are quite good in quality. Shaffer deftly plays a variety of different speeds of tune in a wonderful finger picking style.

The only complaint I have about this album is that there are no liner notes. I generally like to read a little about each song or tune on an album, and see who the additional musicians are. In this case, I don't know who to credit for the fabulous backing vocals on some tracks, or whether all of the instrumentation belongs to Hallock or not. (However, I have since discovered, the average purchaser of the CD will not experience this drawback -- the package comes equipped with 16 panels of lyrics, credits and even old family photos!) The addition of a video clip for the poignant song "Believe It's Real" was a nice bonus, however, and did include such information.

I also wonder how Hallock's live performances compare to his recorded sound. Since it appears that he plays most of the instruments on the album himself, he'd have to find a good wealth of talented accompanists to achieve the same sound. However, I'm not talking about his live performances here, but the album, which happens to be well-produced and good-sounding. This versatile musician has a knack for adding his own style to any type of music, and arranging it in a way which keeps people listening.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]
Rambles: 16 October 2001