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Two sides to the singer/songwriter

Travel By Stars
Travel By Stars
By Will Faeber

Topless Records: 2005

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Jumping In
Jumping In
By Michael Tiernan

Still Listening Productions: 2005

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These reviews first appeared in Turbula in May 2005.

Two new releases show not only that the singer-songwriter school of music is fine shape, but that San Diego's music scene remains a vital, creative environment.

The new CD from Solana Beach's Will Faeber, "Travel By Stars," has the same easy, ultra-smooth jazz-rock élan that made Boz Scaggs' 1970s recordings such gems of intimate storytelling.

Possessed of a similarly smooth-but-distinctive voice as Scaggs, and surrounded by a stellar cast including local faves such as guitarist Peter Sprague, bassist Bob Magnusson, reedman Trip Sprague, drummer Dunan Moore and keyboardist Barnaby Finch, Faeber's 12 self-penned songs provide a sophisticated slice of life with a golden whiskey patina.

Full of gorgeous melodies, luxurious harmonies and tasty solos, songs like "It's Not the Moon That Cries," "Swept Away" and "Forty Days" would be hits if Faeber could just find a time machine and show up circa 1976 when radio was still friendly to smart, addictive little songs.

Short of that, those with a soft spot for intelligent, passionate songs played with style and panache ought to indulge themselves.

If Faeber's timeless elegance hearkens back to an earlier time, Del Mar's Michael Tiernan is wholly in the hear and now. Like Faeber, Tiernan writes his own music, and performs it with similar instrumentation – guitar, bass, drums.

But the sound is completely different in both attitude and sound. Tiernan's singing and arrangements both draw heavily on alternative rock sounds and influences. There's an almost-minor sound to many of the compositions on his new album, "Still Listening" (scheduled for a formal record release party Sunday, March 13 at the Belly Up Tavern).

While edgy and moody, Tiernan's music is still anchored solidly with beautiful melodies and warm harmonies. His new songs have that instant familiarity that the best tunes all seem to possess. And his voice, which seems to range from a mid-baritone to a low tenor, is equally as warm.

The result of all this is an accessible album with both pop and alternative strands that is eminently listenable and fun. It's as good as anything the major labels are issuing, offering yet another argument that the labels are becoming irrelevant to the music business.