Smoke Ring Haloes
Steve Wacker's bio says he absorbed a lot of music while growing up in the American Midwest--this disc proves it. Smoke Ring Haloes includes jazz-tinged ballads, an uptempo rocker or two, a country-ish tribute to musical cowboys (with a great-sounding pedal steel guitar) and touches of the blues. Although Wacker's diversity might make him hard to pigeonhole, this is an accomplished debut. Wacker plays all the instruments except on one song, but considers himself primarily a songwriter and guitarist. He plays acoustic guitar for the most part, but he gets in some electric licks on a few tunes. He also clearly enjoys having fun with the language (although some puns are more obvious than others), and he uses bass, percussion, harmonica and various electronic keyboards to round out the arrangements. Highlights include Cowboy Song (featuring Bob Knetzger's sweet pedal steel), a soulful cover of Bonnie Koloc's Children's Blues, and a duet with MJ Bishop (this girl can really wail!) on Love So Elusive, a funky-sounding shuffle. Scrambled is a fun commentary on that morning-after frame of mind, and Wacker somehow extends it into a comment about day-to-day existence. He also paints some vivid images in More Than Meets the Eye and Seattle, both of which achieve a jazz-like feeling through progressions based on major seventh chords. Nice production, well-written songs, good arrangements and solid vocals by a truly American songwriter. Buy this disc--you won't be disappointed.