Rick Whitelaw, |
Polishing the Stone
Rick Whitelaw's debut album, Polishing the Stone, offers a pleasant mix of instrumental songs on both steel- and nylon-stringed guitars. Although this is Whitelaw's first album on his own, his resume boasts accompaniment with a variety of performers (his Web site lists the likes of Tom Chapin, J.P, Cormier, Dan Hill, John McDermott, Linda Morrison and Nancy White, among others) and musical theatre productions.
Polishing the Stone establishes itself very quickly as the work of an extremely talented musician. Whitelaw is very skilled and the performance is technically accomplished. The only person appearing on the CD, however, is the highly talented performer himself, and the only instrument featured is the guitar. Because of this the songs, although stylistically quite different from one another, tend to blur together. Individually, the songs are all very good, but they might have benefited from the occasional variation that the presence of other instruments could have offered. Whitelaw does fill out the sound on some of the tunes by layering different guitar lines (all performed by Whitelaw).
The songs themselves are actually in a wide variety of styles, covering everything from light ballads to bluegrass and a very Latin styled piece. All are nice (I know this is a terrible word, but it works here), but the ballads stand out as being above the rest so far as songwriting goes.
"Tea Time" reminds me a little of Andy M. Stewart's "Golden, Golden," and "Song for Dana" is very soft and warm. (Besides, I'm a sucker for good harmonics.) "Southern Call," the Latin-sounding piece, is quick, lively and stands out, as much as anything on this album stands out, among the faster songs. Other enjoyable fast tracks include the fairly bluegrassy "High Ground" and the relatively fast-paced "Bottom Dollar." Most of the fast songs don't get so much of an endorsement as the slower ones because they really remind me of the interlude pieces often used in kid's television shows. They straddle the border between bright and perky/kitschy, and just ever so often go a little to far over that border. No one song is entirely like this, but there are a couple of riffs, especially in "Tea Time" and "Handy Man," that get too cutesy.
As a collection of acoustic guitar songs, this CD is good. Whitelaw is very adept on the instrument, and he's a fairly good songwriter. The album could stand to have a bit more variety tonally, but as a mentioned earlier, everything is "nice." If you enjoy the acoustic guitar, this CD is great for what I think of as background music. It would make an excellent soundtrack for a dinner party or other social gathering where you want good, if unobtrusive, music on your stereo.
[ by Kristy Tait ]