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Better and better

By Michael Tiernan

Self-released: 2007

Buy it now

This review first appeared in Turbula in April 2007.

The third CD from Del Mar's Michael Tiernan shows a continued path of artistic growth, taking what he did well on his first two folk releases and building on that for an album that is progressively more impressive, more listenable than his previous outings. The 13 tracks (the last a "hidden" bonus song not listed on the sleeve) show an artist who is improving as a band leader, as a singer – and, most impressively, as a songwriter.

Tiernan has been playing many of these songs in his live shows the past few months, but the rich arrangements and full band (plus the sure-eared production of Tiernan pal Sven-Erik Seaholm) bring out a patina not always apparent in his solo performances. "Same Sky" is a good example, with acoustic and electric guitars trading jabs after Tiernan's vocal opening, then a sharply syncopated acoustic guitar working the bridge between refreain and the next verse.

That last bit is one of the most rewarding additions to Tiernan's musical repertoire: his increasing use of acoustic guitar to bridge between passages, or to add decorative flourishes. The opening guitar riff on "Spaces" is as lovely a guitar passage as he's ever played (and provides a near-perfect introduction to one of the loveliest songs he's yet written).

But he's got other tricks up his sleeve. "So Cruel" opens with a four- or five-part vocal harmony, then is punctuated throughout by a funky electric guitar with an effects pedal. Adding the violin of Alex DePue on several tracks gives them a sheen they'd not have otherwise. And having the immensely talented Barbara Nesbitt on harmony vocals on the country rocker "Better Life" is just gravy.

The album is mostly the same mellow folk that populated his first two albums, but rocks a little harder at times. Mostly, though, it's a lovely collection of some great new songs by one of the area's most talented songwriters.