ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

CD Review

Bill Isles has become a well-known name in the Duluth music scene, in part for his involvement in Songwriters in the Round. His first CD, "Photo Mosaic," was released in 2000 and featured a trip through many different song styles. While many of t...

Bill Isles has become a well-known name in the Duluth music scene, in part for his involvement in Songwriters in the Round.
His first CD, "Photo Mosaic," was released in 2000 and featured a trip through many different song styles.
While many of the actual songs on his late 2001 release "Weightless" are the same songs we've heard from Isles before -- six of the 11 original songs on "Weightless" were also on "Mosaic" -- he comes this time with a cast of fellow musicians and an even greater comfort with his songwriting, his voice and his music.
It's going to sound a little odd, but if you want to get a sense of Bill Isles voice, think Dr. Elmo of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" fame, only more earnest and musical. Maybe a tinge of Willie Nelson. Isles fades easily into that half singing, half storytelling mode where he sort of speaks on key. His voice has little hitches that allow him tremendous versatility, from poignant moments to corny ones.
Isles seems perfectly at home with himself as a singer and musician, and that goes a long way in coming across to listeners.
Some of the songs from the last album come across better this time around. I liked the song "Photo Mosaic" better, for instance, in this incarnation, fleshed out by Ted Heinonen on mandolin and Annie Enneking on vocals. Heinonen in particular has many bright moments on the disc.
Other songs don't fare quite as well. Isles voice is nice on its own, but it takes a particular style to match him on harmony vocals. "Cowbird," with Enneking and Jessica Lind joining in, doesn't fare quite as well, not because any of the voices fail but because they don't especially blend well in tone or style.
One harmony part that does work is "I Can't Take You Home," with Isles and Becky Schlegel, a nice duet. That's one of the five new songs on the disc, and one of the better ones.
Other highlights among the new material are "That's How She Seems," which has carnival music in the background and a catchy chorus, and "Go Ahead and Cry," pretty power balladish for a folk singer but with the nice metaphor, "Let the rain fall from your sky."
If you're going to buy one Bill Isles CD, make it this one. You can look at local music stores or order it through Isles' Web site, http://www.halfamind.com , where you can also get lyrics and background material on the musicians.
News to Use
The CD: "Weightless," 2001
Artist: Bill Isles
Recommendation: If you have Isles' first CD, "Photo Mosaic," you've heard much of this one before, but some of the new stuff is nice, and the broader instrumentation makes some of the old songs fresh.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.