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ALBUM REVIEW: "The Fire's Heart" by Seahorse

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ALBUM REVIEW: Seahorse – The Fire’s Heart (Ravens Flight Records) 2015

As a wine drinker and an aficionado of American folk music, it’s admittedly rare when the two passions intersect.

But such is the case with the Salem, Oregon-based singer-songwriter – and winemaker – Rich Swanger, who performs under the name Seahorse.

I gave the album The Fire’s Heart – the second from Seahorse  and taken from a line in the Cormac McCarthy novel The Road – several spins, letting it sink in, as Swanger wove his tales, with the assistance of accomplished musicians including guitarist William Johnson, multi-instrumentalist Stan Keightley and drummer Rob Harris, among others.

The lightly-amplified opening track, “Nightingale” gets The Fire’s Heart off to a solid start before transitioning into a slight reimagining of the Sunday School song “This Little Light of Mine” into “The Light.” There’s a lot more honesty to this one than the one I remember from my youth. I’m sure Swanger would say the same thing.

Litening to “Tyndall Rose,” I suddenly remembered who Swanger reminds me of – Texas singer-songwriter Luke Olson, crossed with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. And that’s a compliment, believe me.

Musically, the songs tend to run together. But a song like “Mansion,” which starts off quietly, will build a bit and then return to a more reflective and quieter realm.

Lord lift me up off the ground / You put me down on my knees,” repeats Swanger on “Carry the Fire,” one of The Fire’s Heart’s strongest tracks, followed by my second-favorite track, “Goldmine,” a clear-voiced acoustic-electric number that name-drops the U.S./Canadian border town(s) of Sault Ste. Marie – both the Michigan and Ontario sides, of course.

The Fire’s Heart wraps up with the Native American tale“Fireweed," and addressing injustice. 

Seahorse may take patience for some listeners, but for me, the songs and stories shared on this album offer both depth and heart, something we need more of in today's battered and bruised music scene.

The Fire's Heart by Seahorse will be released in March 2015.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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