Tim Tedrow and
John-Michael Kaye,
Tim Tedrow and
John-Michael Kaye

(Trough Records, 1997)

Remember the old days? You are sitting in a coffeehouse and some guy is pouring out his heart in a singer/songwriter gem on a battered old Guild? The words are not the words of a Bob Dylan, nor of a Woody Guthrie. They are not the words of an AM schlock love song. Perhaps they lie somewhere in between, in the same way that some of the Beatles tunes have been compared to Tin Pan Alley material. But most of all, they are lovely, they are melodic songs with heartfelt messages and perhaps that is the key -- they are sincere.

Such is the music of Tim Tedrow and John Michael Kaye, whose release on Trough Records, titled simply Tim Tedrow and John Michael Kaye, is jampacked with what Paul McCartney called, tongue-in-cheek, "silly love songs." What's wrong with that, indeed?

The music is soft. The guitars are folky steel strings and electrics untainted by effects. The voices are pleasant but no one will ever call them operatic. Still there is much to love about this album of music. For example, there is appeal in just knowing that the songs were written, as they are noted on the liner notes, "on a lunch break," or "started as a ballad written at dawn in my backyard. It changed somehow." Of another it says, "Sarah kissed me when she first heard this song."

More charming liner notes tell us that one song was written from a friend who was having a tough time in a relationship; another , the oldest song, became Tim's wedding vow to his beloved wife, Lois, who produced the album and a successful concert of theirs at Citrus College in California. Sharing these moments of their lives gives the music of Tim Tedrow and John-Michael Kaye a very special meaning. The word special is so trite, I hesitate to use it, but when we are on our death beds looking back, we will remember the loves of our lives and some of the memories will be sad, others bittersweet and others sweet and comforting as the light we go toward when finally we succumb. Love is important. It is the greatest commandment. These men have shared glimpses of their lives with us through feathery light, sweet-toned guitar music. One has to respect that.

Words wax trite, though, or as the accompanying public relations materials call it, "sweet and simple." Just consider the titles: "If I Could Find the Words," "You're My Lady," "Lonely Man," "Never Ending Love," "Baby Come Back to Me."

John Michael Kaye's guitar is referred to as dynamic and perfect. Sometimes it borders on AM-soft rock a la David Gates of the top 40 favorite of a few decades ago, Bread. Still the liner notes confess the songs have been written over a sixteen-year period. That's a lot of maturing for an artist. There are bound to be ups and downs, gems and junk. But consider verses like:

"I'll hold you in my arms and never let you go." -- from "Live Inside Our Love"

"Lay by my side in the moonlight...
I feel your heartbeat; taste your lips so sweet."
"Let this night last forever...
Give me your lips, one lingering kiss,
the memory will never fade away." -- from "Paradise"

"There's a place inside my heart that's
empty without you." -- from "Steel Magnolias"

"Don't worry about what tomorrow may bring." -- from "I'll Sing a Love Song"

Catch my drift? Any Neil Diamond fans out there? Barry Manilow? Where's Mike Douglas when we need him to sing?

Lois Tedrow's fine voice towers above the adequate vocals of the male principals of the group, although she is only heard sparingly on the album. Her vibrato contrasts uncomfortably, a bit of brass against the mellow woodwinds of the other voices.

What do you do about this kind of music? It has merit. These are singer/songwriters singing what I refer to as "coffeehouse folk." The songs are pretty, some a bit fluffy, a bit hackneyed, but always warm and fuzzy and likeable. It's just that so many do this stuff better. Still, these guys are going to write a song someday that will make them famous -- someone else will play it, though. Either that or they will have the benefit of a zillion dollar studio production engineer behind them.

[ by John D. Cross ]

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