Album Review: Various Artists, ‘Further On – The Songs of Billy Conway’
Posthumous tribute albums are often compiled by record labels or other parties who want to make a buck off the songs of a great player. But Further On (self-released January 20) was compiled by the friends and frequent collaborators of late drummer and songwriter Billy Conway. Thus, each of the people singing their friend’s songs had recordings, performances, and daily lives indelibly marked by Conway’s influence.
Indeed, the songs resonate with the kind of love and affection that can only come from a circle of dear friends. There is a sung-around-a-fire vibe to the whole album, even where the arrangements become lush and electric. Harmonies are warm and supportive; instrumentation is well-positioned and wrought with the kind of musicality that Conway brought to the songs he touched in his career.
Songs on Further On range in style from country to folk and rock. The disc opens with Jeffrey Foucault singing, “Love ain’t around when you’re gone,” backed by a chorus of friends. It’s a prescient lyric, considering the context of the album. What may have been written about a loss of romance now lands as loss of another kind.
Chris Smither masterfully grumbles through the dichotomous “Outside Inside” (“I try to lose myself but not to hide”).
“I Feel You Moving”—sung here by Laurie Sargent—has a Morphine-like alt-rock vibe. Indeed, Conway played with Morphine, so the marrying of harmonica, saxophone, and the rhythmic romp of the song feels apropos. Sargent’s vocals soar and roar, a welcome ferocity toward the middle of the disc.
Singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty brings the tears with “After All,” as she delivers Conway’s sentimental lyric, which takes on new meaning in the wake of such a loss: “Nothing belongs to me under the sun / Just a few things matter at all, after all.” This is followed by the bright light of Kris Delmhorst’s turn on “Once Is Enough,” about the magic of great songs, among other things.
The title track comes in last, with guitarist Jabe Beyer singing the lead, his gruff vocals appended by the smooth clarity of horns and a pedal steel. “I’m gonna go now,” he sings, “someplace I don’t know how … I guess I’ll just disappear.” It’s an emotional and stirring delivery, offering a kind of closure.
May Billy Conway rest in peace, knowing his friends did him right.
Further On: The Songs of Billy Conway is available HERE.
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