Larry Murante,
Water's Edge
(Weeping Wood Music, 2000)

Water's Edge, Larry Murante's second release, settles itself firmly on the country side of folk music; with a veritable army of musicians at his back, Murante, a singer-songwriter from Seattle, creates a glossy collection that, while performed well, is just a little too slick for my taste.

From the opening notes of the acoustic slide guitar on "Katie's House," this CD slips into the country mood and never really leaves it. "Between the Road and the River" makes an attempt to shake off that label with its intricate guitar rhythms, but the effort is spoiled by the early addition of full-band flourishes. "Streets of Seattle" suffers from this same over-working; the lyrics of this song suggest something much harsher than the well-developed presentation Murante gives us. It's this slickness (for lack of a better term) that keeps this CD from really moving me; everything is too polished, to the point of sameness throughout the entire CD.

That's not to say that the entire CD isn't worth a listen. The mandolin on track 5, "Those Days," creates a beautiful old-world feel, while "John Korman" sneaks in with a funky bass line that will be sure to get you moving in your seat. The final track, though, is where the fun really begins, as Murante rips into a little boogie-woogie "Chumstick Chow."

It's these last tunes that really capture Murante's voice, which is better suited, in my opinion, to more playful, upbeat tunes. The softer, introspective tracks do nothing to showcase Murante's strong voice; rather, his delivery on these, while thoughtful and steady, comes across as lacking heart and intensity.

As a whole, Water's Edge is well put together; however, there's little room for the real heart of the music to shine through. It's as though Murante spent too much time in the studio, pushing these songs past the point of being "done," to the place where they all start to sound the same. Here's hoping that Murante's next CD hovers just on this side of polish -- sometimes it's the rough that's really the diamond.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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