Sonoma Master Series/ One – PS Audio – stereo only

by | Jun 11, 2016 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Sonoma Master Series/ One – PS Audio – stereo only- SACD + DSD & PCM Data DVD, 39:04 ****1/2:

Multiple artist audiophile showcase hits all the right notes!

(Bonnie Paine – washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox, vocals; Bridget Law – fiddle, octave fiddle; Charlie Rose – banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello, double bass; Dango Rose – double bass, mandolin, banjo; Daniel Rodriguez – guitar, banjo, double bass; Janet Feder – baritone guitar; Todd Bilsborough – percussion;  Mike Yach – electric guitar; Davis Elias – acoustic guitar, vocals; Matt Flinner – Irish Bouzouki; Sally Van Meter – Weissenborn guitar; Eric Thorn – upright bass; Marc Dalio – drums; Ron Miles – trumpet, coronet; Bill Frisell – guitar; David Darling – cello; Jacqueline Tschabold Bhuyan – piano; Lara Riggles – piano, vocals; Amy Shelley – drums; Sarah Louise Pieplow – harmonica, vocals; Lesley Kernochan – musical saw; Otis Taylor – guitar; Todd Edmunds – bass; Adam Agee – fiddle; Jon Sousa – guitar; Fionas Joy – piano; Reed Foehl – acoustic guitar, vocals; Steven Vidaic – piano; Neal Casal – electric guitar; Jonathan Meadows – bass )

PS Audio has been an innovative producer of home audio products since 1973. Additionally, their dedication to providing state-of-the-art recording technology to lesser known artists is truly unique. At the core of this commitment is Gus Skinas. Through his proprietary Sonoma Pure DSD workstation, personal musical visions have been captured on shimmering audiophile recordings.

PS Audio has released a collection of diverse artists in a collection titled Sonoma Master SeriesOne.  The opening track features a Colorado folk quintet, Elephant Revival. Combining Celtic and American roots, “Quill Pen Feather” has a relaxed sprightly tempo and harmonic dual vocal lead. A variety of stringed instruments provide a touch of elegiac prominence, but with a pulse. Bridget Law delivers a prominent fiddle run on this cut.  Switching gears, Janet Feder creates a ruminative guitar space jam on “No Apology”. Regardless of the number of instruments, the recorded sound is fully developed. A definite highlight is trumpeter Ron Miles’ melodic piece, “Darken My Door’. His horn lines are lyrical and concise. He is joined by veteran guitarist, Bill Frisell. Several of the rhythmic guitar riffs are folded neatly into a natural counterpoint. Miles is expressive and creative.

Drawing on classical inspiration, “Mirage For Debussy” is a collaboration between cellist David Darling and pianist Jacqueline Tschabold Bhuyan.  The instrumental tonality is extraordinary on this track (the liner notes reference the 21 different mics and advanced DSD equipment). Darling’s haunting cello lead is stellar (and has some riveting low-register notation).  Bhuyan is equally moving on piano. Clocking in at a brief 2:28, the listener craves more of this engrossing duet. The project features songwriters and intimate contexts.  Lara Ruggles has an edgy voice (and plays piano) and tells a personal story on “Snowflake”. Another singer/songwriter, Reed Foehl contributes a relaxed folk waltz on “Fly”. His voice is engaging and the harmonies with Bonnie Paine are compelling.

But it is the variety of musical genres and interpretations that make Sonoma Master Series – One interesting. Otis Taylor shines on an effect-driven electric guitar opus, “They Wore Blue”. Ron Miles adds a spine-tingling multi-tracked trumpet second half/interlude. Pianist and Blue Coast records artist Fiona Joy brings her New Age/classical trademark skills to Ceremony”. The duet “Fead An Iolar (The Eagles World )” is an elegiac, Irish meditation, enlivened by the fiddle play of Adam Agee and the guitar of Jon Sousa. The glowing imagery and wistful tenderness resonates.

The sound quality of this  stereo SACD is excellent. The full range of the instruments (at both the lower and upper limits) is impressive. Whether it’s the reverberating octave cello or the crisper trumpet, the tone is expansive. (Note: This review was for SACD stereo only). Audiophiles and eclectic music fans will find Sonoma Master SeriesOne a satisfying listening experience

TrackList (SACD + DSD/PCM Data DVD): Quill Pen Feather (Elephant Festival); No Apology (Janet Feder); Her Name Is A (David Elias); Darken My Door (Ron Miles);  Mirage For Debussy (David Darling & Jacqueline Tschabold); Snowflake (Lara Ruggles); They Wore Blue (Otis Taylor); Fead An Iolar/The Eagle’s Whistle (Adam Agee/Jon Sousa; Ceremony (Fiona Joy; Fly (Reed Foehl)

—Robbie Gerson

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