Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Terry and His Bottle Tree

      Terry McLaughlin is full of surprises. He lived in Tamarindo for some time with his wife, Lynn and entertained all over Guanacaste with his harmonica expertise. During that time, he released his CD, “El Gato”, a collection of classic songs, interpreted by Terry with his own, unique style. It’s a kind of a tribute album, which received great acclaim locally.
        After touring The States, performing in such cool venues as the Napa Opera House and Yoshi’s in San Francisco, Terry and Lynn are back in Costa Rica, landing in Grecia, for the time being. He returned with his second CD, “Bottle Tree”, a collection of six original songs, all penned by Terry, with the help of his long-time friend, Lorian Hemingway, who wrote the lyrics for the final cut, “Hymn for the Ninth Ward”. Lorian is Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter and a successful writer on her own, with the highly acclaimed novels “Walk on Water” and “Walking into the River”. I warned you: this guy is full of surprises. Terry sings all the lead and back-up vocals on the recording, in addition to providing keyboards, bass guitar and, of course, the slick harmonica work. So, yes, this is Terry’s album, his labor of love. All guitar tracks are provided by long-time friend Flip Shoemaker, a jazz guitarist with his own impressive credentials, including work with Bernadette Peters, Mel Torme, Liza Minnelli, Ramsey Lewis, Roy Hanes, Nat Adderly and his contributions on “Renaissance”, the Grammy nominated album by Rene Croan.
       My first impression of the project is how melodic it sounds, how well sculpted. Put that in his repertoire, too: Terry McLaughlin, sculptor. It’s a very soulful album, reminiscent of Boz Scaggs in the Nineties, when he recorded such classics as “Some Change”. The album opens with “Wish You Were Here”, a romantic, nostalgic number and a nice introduction to The Blue-Eyed Soul of Terry McLaughlin. “Darlene”, the second song on the CD is up-tempo, a bit tongue in cheek, with great vocals and harp and full of infectious hooks. The third song, “Trouble’s No Stranger” is another richly-layered tune, highlighting Terry’s sweet vocals and songwriting mastery. “More Work 4 Less Money” is self-explanatory, an historic opus looking back on the life of a hard-working musician, again with soulful vocals that inspire. “Rivers Run” moves along like a gentle stream, with a strong bass line and memorable, crafted lyrics. The final cut, “Hymn for the 9th Ward”, displays the crisp harp work of McLaughlin, a song that deserves to be listened to and listened to again. I’m still listening, and I think this holds true of Terry’s entire “Bottle Tree”.
     El Gato told me he got the idea for the title from a Eudora Welty novel, in reference to a tradition brought to America by slaves from Mother Africa. Stripped-down branches from trees outside their domiciles are used to house inverted bottles, placed there to capture spirits to prevent them from entering the house. Terry has captured his own spirits (or some of them) on this wonderful recording. I look forward to him visiting Tamarindo again performing for us. In the meanwhile, copies of “El Gato” are available at Jaime Peligro book store, as will be “Bottle Tree” when it is released.