Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

'Across the Water' reviews pour in as waiting game continues

Posted November 14, 2015

The process of birthing a CD is all about waiting and working. Waiting for the melodies to emerge. Working to give those melodies the best arrangements and instrumentation possible. Waiting for the musicians to record their parts. Working to get the best studio mix ever. And waiting for UPS to deliver a bunch of boxes full of the new CD with its dramatic cover photography and melodic disc inside. And on and on it goes.

My waiting right now on “Across The Water” is twofold. Waiting for Zone Music Reporter, which tracks international airplay, to let me know how I’m doing with my new Irish-themed CD. I will probably get a report within the next week. I am also waiting for the final batch of reviews to come in. The suspense is killing me!

While I wait, I would like to share with you some of the criticisms of my music. A reviewer once wrote that I should never mix vocals and instrumentals on one album. I used to do that a lot but have gotten away from that practice lately.The reviewer said “if you really want someone to enjoy the whole album you should make it either an all-vocal compilation or all-instrumental.” "Across The Water" is all instrumental. It also sticks close to a particular mood throughout the 12 tracks. A dear friend who has worked on many of my previous albums says he prefers more variety on albums in terms of tempo, key and he doesn’t mind a mixture of vocals and instrumentals. So, you can’t please everyone.

Back to the waiting. I always look forward to getting a written review from my son William. I know he will be a bit biased, but Will always has interesting things to say and he takes time to listen intently to each track. My sister Stephanie does the same thing, and it means the world to me. Will’s review this year has been delayed by some major stresses of life. He recently changed jobs. He moved from an apartment in Charlotte to a house. And next week he is getting married! This morning Will sent me his review, and I’d like to share it with you, along some other reviews I have received and a new music video titled Irish Blessing. Thank you William and reviewers everywhere!

Garry Crites’ review of 'Across The Water'

Michael Diamond’s feature story on 'Across The Water'

Kathy Parsons' review of 'Across The Water'

R.J. Lannan’s review of 'Across The Water'

Keith Hannaleck’s review of 'Across The Water'

William Leslie’s review of Across The Water:

I want to start off by saying that 'Across the Water' is sincerely professional all of the way through. The cardboard feels so nice in my hands and I love the way it turns to a different story or message at each fold. What a beautiful picture that you selected for the cover. It certainly reflects the enchanting and moody music to come.

There is so much life in that first note. The bass adds a depth that your music deserves. The first thoughts that came to my head once the track Across the Water began to play were, “This sounds like a soundtrack to a movie.” The music is so thematic and it totally grabs your attention. The Boatman is my favorite track on this album. In fact, I feel confident saying it is my favorite recording of yours.

Your expertise in arranging is displayed so beautifully here. What a rollercoaster of emotions this song is, and in all of the right ways. That moment where the music calms down and the piano takes the lead reminds me of the power of dynamics. Connemara is another one of those songs that pulls at different emotions. I can’t imagine how surreal it is to have a former member of your favorite band playing on your album. Miriam is one of the songs on Across the Water that really feels quintessentially Irish. Compositionally, you pulled off a combination of classical and Irish which is quite a feat!

One of my favorite moments on this album is when the bagpipes come in and match the timbre of the violin. I’m guessing Jennifer matched the bagpipe, making it sound almost like two bagpipes until she takes the lead. Such a cool sound. The melody to Lorica is your finest in my mind. This is just such a memorable track that stays with you. Jessica has never heard the original recording, but after one listen of this version, said this is her favorite of yours. I think it’s your finest whistle playing on this album as well.  I love how every instrument has its own interpretation of the melody. The fade out is so delicate. What a wonderful opportunity this album is to revisit Gaelic Ghost. On this track, you’re able to touch on so many different moods, styles, and instruments and all within 3:30. I’m a true believer in the power of a song that is just long enough, but leaves the listener wanting more. You definitely grasp this concept. Stephanie is another track on this album that benefits remarkably from the bass. Your crisp guitar registers nicely on top, but the bass bounces in so much bottom to balance out everything. There is a sense of hope I get when listening to Irish Girl. How emotionally powerful yet delicate your whistle playing is on this. There is a strong sense of command coming from the bass on Ring of Kerry. I don’t think I can stress enough how indispensable this new element is to your music. The arrangement of the cello and harp are outstanding here. The counter melody of the harp is so well executed. How special it is to have a harp on this album, as the harp has strong ancient ties to Ireland. What a wonderful opportunity this album has been to revisit your classic melodies. Cloud of Witnesses will forever be active in my music conscious and it’s so nice to stir it up with a new rendition. The rhythm on this song is so solid and it blossoms at so many unexpected moments.

Gougane Barra is the perfect second to last song for this album. The pace slows down and lets you know this journey is close to an end. The first time I heard Irish Blessing I was certain that it was a traditional Irish song. When I learned it wasn’t, I had a big smile creep across my face. This song is a VERY close second favorite of mine. I love your rhythm guitar that waltzes in and out. The climax moments make me tear up when I hear them. This is an song worthy of being an Irish traditional.

Your music continues to flourish with each album you put out. Your skills in track arranging are absolutely at their best here. What a story this album tells and I want to keep listening!



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Bill Leslie