Rambles Reviews Sunflowers Light the Room
Sweet, sweet words that bring thoughts of love and sunshine and gladness into the space that surrounds the music defines this CD. Howard Gladstone is a folksinger with a guitar who sounds like he enjoys life, takes the blows, but still finds much to appreciate and rejoice in.
His sound is different in that his voice is soft and low, not a whisper but a croon — a comfortable warm croon, not at all a swing style. His music is described as “somewhere between acoustic rock, country and folk.” And I can’t argue with that.
Based in Toronto, Gladstone has moved into performance, complementing his first career as a writer. His live band includes Juno Award winner Tony Quarrington, Bruce Longman, and Gary Orme, who are all respected musicians of considerable talent. On this album, he is accompanied by these and many more.
I was impressed by the rhythm in his lyrics, a perfect balance of words, innovative expression and clarity of thought that takes one off to new places. He has a lot of solid material that’s wide open to various musical interpretations. I strongly suggest the folk style of these songs is not the beginning and the end of where Gladstone’s compositions can be appreciated.
I’m not sure what he’s aiming for in this CD, and if it’s to present his songwriting, it’s a winner. If it’s to introduce himself as a singer and songwriter, I have a few reservations. No, I take that back, he is a wonderful folksinger. But, as I listened to this CD, I found that while I appreciated his lyrics, I was imagining more: Celine Dion’s voice bringing some of the songs to a new level, and maybe a couple should be spouted by a deep rasp like Gordon Lightfoot’s, and some could be easily added to the repertoire of a rock band. Gladstone is a songwriter whose work shouldn’t be stuck in any one category.
I have to admit that I’m not a pop fanatic, nor a folk connoisseur, but I think many of these songs should be out there where more people can find them and appreciate them. Gladstone really has something here and I hope he’ll share it with others to extend the pleasure of such beautiful music to other recording styles.
When I listen to “Sunflowers Light the Room,” I hear a spiritual tone, an awakening and “Silver-Handled Dagger” is a slightly bluesy ballad with a working-on-a chain-gang sound. Undoubtedly Gladstone has a way with words and expression. This CD is definitely folk, but it sweeps across the cobblestones of so many other possible avenues. Perhaps “Howard Gladstone” is a style; listen and you can decide for yourself. I liked this CD, but it took me while to figure out why I liked it. Because of the lyrics.
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 29 March 2003