Smoke & Mirrors
Smoke & Mirrors is a tasty collage of songs written and performed by Peter Huhtala. Huhtala is a formidable writer and a creative tunesmith. Widely known for his commitment to environmental and social justice causes, much of the original material he performs has been directly inspired by events of the current age. On this disc, however, Huhtala showcases several songs with a more personal edge, revealing a complex depth in his artistry. He still alludes to present day society on occasion, but from a timeless universal perspective. He deftly draws us into his world with poetic lyrics and compelling music. This man is not your usual folksinger. No matter how gentle the tune, there always lurks the underlying energy of rock. Smoke & Mirrors even includes a generous variety of electric guitar work by Huhtala himself. 'Those Were the Days' kicks off this collection, an ode to the cycles of enlightenment and ignorance - and I gather an overt jab at corrupt politics. 'Outward Bound' follows with it's twisted melding of vocals celebrating some sort of spiritual or natural release with over-the-top guitar. 'Things That Cannot Be' shimmers with catchy licks while spinning a tale that perhaps rationalizes a love lost. Then again the song is so hopeful that maybe the dream does come true. 'Secret of the Golden Flower' can invoke a trance with it's layers of percussion and hypnotic lyrics. Huhtala says the song is about birth and credits his children, as well as the ancient Chinese text that shares the song's name, with it's inspiration. 'Stick Out a Foot' is a rallying anthem of the battle to save this planet's environment. This version features Huhtala with his foot on a wah-wah peddle raking the sky with a delightfully plaintive incantation. By the time 'Bright Light' kicks off, the country-tinged tune is perfect for clearing the palette. But what actually happens when 'conscious loving is meeting lucid dreaming in the middle of the night'? 'Edge of Disaster' combines the foreboding of a personal or civilization-wide apocalypse with a bright, driving rhythm that nods to the 80s. Strange, but fun. 'Chance of Circumstance' is a beautiful composition that implores no less that peace on earth. It does so with interesting sonic depth and a touch of surprise. Smoke & Mirrors draws to a close with a Huhtala classic, 'Circle 'Round People'. You would be hard pressed to find a more generous sentiment than the messages in this song. But, wow, the tone Huhtala coaxes for his guitar solo tickles the brain. Smoke & Mirrors is a real treat of intelligent eclectic modern folk music. It's also refreshing to encounter a CD that moves from one track to the next with a flow that makes for a singular work. Peter Huhtala's offering makes for enjoyable repeated listening, and leaves us wanting to hear more from this outstanding songwriter. ___ Peter Huhtala has been writing songs and playing guitar since the late 1960s. He was inspired early on by both the social bite of protest music and the consciousness raising psychedelic rock pervading the west coast. Huhtala has played solo and in various ensembles throughout the western United States. The groups have included Reckless & Abandon, Cowboy & Junior, Divine Decadence, Bait, and Uhunaude. Huhtala's songwriting has been integral to his performance career, and has ranged from classic albeit twisted folk music, to country rock, hard rock, and political folk rock. Most of his live shows in recent years have benefited social justice, peace and environmental causes. "Smoke & Mirrors" is a selection of songs from Huhtala's extensive repertoire of original material. It includes both new songs and some updated arrangements of older tunes. In contrast to the political focus of many of his live performances, he considers "Smoke & Mirrors" to be a more personal selection of songs. Huhtala also made this anthology a personal project, performing all of the guitar parts as well as the electronic looping and sequencing. The result? The songs are fun, the CD is cohesive, and the whole package feels energetic and "live!" Part of the success of this recording may have to do with the artist living with Parkinson's disease. He says that he was motivated to do this project solo because he was determined to get past some of the ways the disease limits him physically. He is grateful that a change in his medical treatment was effective during the recording process. We're grateful for the chance to hear the guitar work that emerged. Huhtala juggles his music and his writing career with his work in marine conservation - where he is on the front line of the challenge to protect our ocean ecosystems and our coastal communities. This is a busy and committed man, with a wealth of music to share. "Smoke & Mirrors" is an outstanding contribution. Huhtala promises more to come.