The tool which an artist chooses to wield to bring to life their creation greatly affects the art that they birth. The sound, feel, history, context, and otherworldly magic associated with a particular instrument will do much to shape the tunes that a songwriter writes. For the string-smiths out there a certain style or brand of guitar will react differently with the musician and furthermore, if they want to escape the typical patterns, they will reach for more eclectic instruments to get the inspiration out into the world.
Folk troubadour Ad Vanderveen sings songs of the human condition with a wistful lilt and a perceptive voice. Culled from the preeminent folk influences of the 20th century, his tracks are heartfelt, vulnerable, and have an unfettered sense of sincerity and real-world exposition. For this latest record, Vanderveen wrote most of the songs on the mandola, a bigger sibling of the mandolin. It still bears the same doubled-string twang of its smaller counterpart but tuned a fifth of an octave lower. The mandolin easily lends a folksy/Americana vibe to any track and the mandola does the same but can occupy a sonic space closer to a standard guitar. Beginning the songs with this instrument at their core instantly evokes that warm, timeless character that the genre strives to achieve.
Candle To You has a theme throughout of shining a light in dark places to find your way through. Vanderveen offers words of comfort and pearls of wisdom for the listener to be nourished by. The opener ‘Do What You Love’ unfolds as a message to a child trying to find their way in the world. An urging to chase after what you’re passionate about. The track has a certain Cat Stevens thematic vibe. The song evokes a slow dance on the hardwood kitchen floor with a homely harmonica solo as an extra sweetener. The title track offers up an adoring tribute to a love with a lullaby-like warmth. The dreamy bend of a tasteful pedal steel meandering throughout.
The song ‘Last Venture’ is spiritually descended from Bob Dylan’s original version of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’. The pairing of wistful harmonica and pulsing strummed acoustic scores his wandering verses. His cadence mimics the Minnesota minstrel with a lyrical turnaround that comes back to hit you like the swift wag of a tail. His mandola serves the role of banjo on ‘Window in the Rain’, a sparse track that embodies the feeling of those quiet days, shut in from the deluge. A soft, pliable violin accompanies Vanderveen on this piece of pure Americana. ‘Miss That World’ calmly sways, propelled by a brushed drum set and accented by the pedal steel emulating the howl of coyotes off in the distance. A country-tinged look back at the whirlwind of a past romance.
Vanderveen again proves his folk chops by writing a welcoming album that brings you to that home on the range. On this effort, he seems to have coalesced more of a signature sound relying less on the tropes of his forebears while still honouring the lineage.
By Jon C. Ireson, Music-News, UK