Sounds Local: TapRoots, Wallace Field convey a range of sounds and experiences in new releases

Published: 03-29-2023 5:13 PM

By Sheryl Hunter

Spring is officially here, and it’s time to usher in some new music with the new season. There are a couple of brand-new releases that I am enjoying and feel are deserving of your attention. Read on to learn more about these two albums and then give them a listen.

“The Resonance Within” —TapRoots

It’s hard to resist an album that opens with the sounds of waves caressing the shore, and that’s precisely how “The Resonance Within” by TapRoots begins. The tune is called “Songs for the Ocean,” and is the perfect introduction to the exciting new music on this release. At over eight minutes, this song is full of percolating percussion, bold horns and the kind of catchy chorus that makes for an uplifting listening experience. The underlying Latin rhythms further give this music depth.

“Songs for the Ocean” is dedicated to Yemaya, the mother of all life in the Yoruba pantheon. In addition, the song benefits from the powerful vocals of I-Shea (the Gaslight Tinkers), who sings lyrics in Spanish, English and Yoruba, urging us to protect our sacred sea while also capturing the relaxing feeling of being at the shore.

“The Resonance Within” is the second album from TapRoots, a musical ensemble that is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and producer Matthew King of Amherst. An ambitious, complex, yet thoroughly enjoyable release, it finds King blending various influences to create refreshingly new music. It’s impossible to list all the styles you’ll hear on these 10 tracks, but funk, soul, salsa, Afrobeat, reggae and Afro-Cuban jazz, are some of the genres that TapRoots work with to create a global fusion of sound.

Add to that lyrics of a spiritual nature that explore themes of joy, gratitude and the well-being of our planet and you have a work that not only explores the connection of various musical traditions but between humans as well. King wrote these songs during the pandemic, so it’s not surprising that the theme of connection and the future of the planet were on his mind.

King brought together some of the finest musicians in the area and beyond to bring his ideas to fruition. You hear this on a song like “Gumbo,” which was inspired by the funky sounds of New Orleans and dedicated to the memory of sax player and local musician, the late Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers.

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Some sizzling drums, big easy horns and blazing keyboard work from Mitch Chakour anchor the song. An unexpected twist arises via some rapping from Garrick “Force” Perry and Braun “Catalyst” Digger. But that’s the kind of surprise King tosses in throughout the disc, and he manages to pull it off.

Other highlights include the Afrobeat sounds of “Obatala” propelled by the steady beats of the drummers assembled for this recording, while the melodic “Remembering” is a song about life choices. “Walking out that door/Will you bring peace or war/We all got to choose.”

“Ojala” is by Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez. In Rodriguez’s original it is an acoustic folk tune, but the TapRoots version—sung in Spanish—is full of musical layers accentuated by the flute work of Ahmed Gonzalez. The disc concludes as it began with “Songs for the Ocean” (traditional) which features King and I-Shea beautifully blending their voices together on this quiet finale.

“The Resonance Within” is the kind of album you can enjoy on many levels, be it putting on the headphones and soaking up all that is musically going on or cranking up the volume and wildly dancing away. Enjoy.

“The Resonance Within” can be heard on most streaming services. To purchase a CD visit thetaprootsmovement.com.

All Costs”—Wallace Field

On Monday, Wallace Field (real name Chelsie Field) of Greenfield released her debut full-length album, “All Costs.” This nine -song collection was four years in the making and inspired by two life-altering experiences. In 2018, Field endured a painful breakup. Then, a few weeks after this loss, there was fire in her childhood home in Shelburne Falls. She was living in the house at the time and lost most of her possessions. The songs on “All Costs” are rooted in her experience of processing both of these traumas. And as a result, this follow-up to her 2021 EP “Crystal Mirror” is a beautiful, heartfelt and emotional album.

Field cuts right to the quick on the title track and tells her story.

“He left me in my driveway, never to be seen from again/ That house would burn three months later/ And I would not reach out.”

From there, her lyrics explores the hope and fear of entering a new love.

“The story of how we met still rushes me into romance/It frightens me most now that I’m choking on/The fresh blood of a new love.”

The song is a delicate dance between the dividing line of the pain of the past and the hope for the future, a theme that crops up throughout these songs.

Musically the material here is divided by singer-songwriter folk-influenced tunes (“Ocean”) and indie rockers (“Weep”). The disc was produced and mixed by Nate Mondschein, who does an excellent job matching the mood of the lyrics to the music while keeping her expressive vocals in the forefront. He also plays keyboards, drums and guitar throughout, while Field primarily accompanies herself on baritone ukulele, the instruments she writes on.

On a song like “Sheperd,” Field’s voice is reminiscent of Kate Bush as she sings against a brooding guitar and straight ahead drumbeat that builds to a cacophony of noise. “Water Me” is a pop rock tune that finds Field recalling the fire and boldly singing, “I’m not turning back, I’m not turning back/Only way to go is where I have not been/No more holding back, no more holding back.”

When she sings the line, “I lost everything I owned,” she delivers it with the fierceness of a soundtrack to throwing dishes against a wall. This album is full of a wide range of emotions, be it the sadness running through the quiet “Nothing is Everything,” a touching love song that showcases her versatile voice or the sense of hope heard on “Stranger.”

On “All Costs’ Field emerges as a master storyteller who takes the listener on a journey through darkness to the light on the other side. A powerful, musically stunning debut about survival.

“All Costs,” was released on the fifth anniversary of the fire. It can be heard on all streaming services and a physical CD can be purchased at bandcamp.com. For more information visit: Wallacefieldmusic.com. Wallace Field will hold a sold-out release show at the Parlor Room in Northampton on Saturday, April 1.

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be reached at Soundslocal@yahoo.com.

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