Tom Mank &
Sera Jane Smolen,
Souls of Birds
(I-Town, 2004)

Tom Mank and Sera Jane Smolen produce some beautiful sweet sounds together, and their lyrics on Souls of Birds perfectly complement the instrumentation of guitar and cello.

Opening with "Happy Ending," the duo immediately entrances the listener. The wonderfully eponymous title track is one of my favourites on here. Its story unfolding will hold the attention through almost seven minutes.

At 10 minutes and 57 seconds "Big Red Moon" is one of the longest tracks I have listened to in a long time. It opens with a very Eastern motif, which I feel may be just a little too long, before moving on to the guitar and vocals that are almost lost in the last quarter.

The playing and performing on this album are top-class, but they may lose some audience reaction in being just a little too long and slow to reach the point. On "Take Your Breath Away," however, it is worth the wait. "Khaki & Bone 1918" is likewise an excellent track.

You may only get nine tracks here but you get more than a fair share of good music well played and lyrics well written. A little more background on the tracks would enhance the experience of this album.

by Nicky Rossiter
4 February 2006

[ visit Tom Mank's website ]

[ visit Sera Jane Smolen's website ]