Jonathan McEuen – One Step Ahead; AIX Records

by | Mar 30, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Jonathan McEuen – One Step Ahead; AIX Records AIX 80029 DVD-A/DVD-V ***1/2: 

This recording was made on May 23, 2003 at the Colburn School for Performing Arts and every effort was made to keep the recording path as simple and pure as possible (like most every AIX recording).  There are so many special features available on the DVD-V side (1.33:1 aspect ratio) that it would take pages to go through.  Suffice it to say, that there is tons of information on the musicians, the recording process, and special sections to describe how to best utilize all the features of the disc.

McEuen’s band is made up of Jesse Siebenberg (vocals, guitar & drums), Nathan McEuen (vocals & guitar), Randy Tico (bass), Chester Cooley (percussion).  McEuen’s father is John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, so there is a family history in the type of music that McEuen plays—a mix between folk, alternative country, rock, blues, and other genres as well.  He sings with a slight nasality/whiny voice mixed with light acoustic guitar, harmony, and accompaniment.  He plays with a lot of heart—listen to “Prayer For You,” a touching song about losing someone.  Even the upbeat songs come across in a soothing way due to the arrangements.  By track six there is a shift from this type of mellow acoustic presentation to a larger band with electric guitar.  “Grand Design” is playful, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to hear it on the soundtrack of a film.  “Red, Red Hair” is what I’d call a “truckin’” song.  Unlike some debut albums that have a tendency to sound all the sound, this one is free from that effect.  If McEuen can continue to evolve then he will definitely be worth watching.

The DVD-A disc offers a “Stage” Mix only and the recording quality is better than or equal to the very best CDs—it’s very neutral and is not enhanced or manipulated in any way.  The focus is up front but instruments come from all around.  A hi-res stereo option is available on the DVD-V side.  The DVD-V side also offers a DD 5.1 “Audience” Mix and a DTS 5.1 “Stage” Mix.  Unlike some multichannel video discs there is a full video portion along with the music, often using split screen to give closeups of different players simultaneously.  Besides the video of the recording session, there are biographies, behind-the-scenes video, and a photo gallery.

Songs included are:  Two Of Us; Prayer For You; Lock Out; You Will Always Win; Ocean; Seven Shades Of Blue; Grand Design; Jake; Red, Red Hair; The Day I Made The Devil Cry; Need Man; Shady Grove; Lowlands; Fool Around.

-Brian Bloom

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