Reviews of One Kind Word

Waterbug Records WBG - 0046

One Kind Word cover

GEOFF BARTLEY One Kind Word Waterbug WBG-0046

Geoff Bartley's One Kind Word is a wonderful album, seamlessly building from one composition by Blind Lemon Jefferson to Bartley's own compelling, unusual and thought-provoking songs, and fine singing and guitar playing. One of Bartley's major strengths is his knowledge that there is so much more to write and sing about than lost love and the perils of being a musician. This album has the feel of great old country blues, but with new songs and perspectives... I have been enjoying this album more and more each time I listen to it... Clearly one of the best albums of 1998.
~ John Weingart, WPRB 103.3 fm, Princeton, New Jersey

GEOFF BARTLEY One Kind Word Waterbug WBG-0046
Sing Out! magazine Winter/Spring 1999

Sometimes a recording grabs you straight out of the jewel box, and One Kind Word is one of them. Geoff Bartley is no newcomer, he's been around the singer-songwriter scene for many years, but if this release fails to bring him serious recognition there's no justice in the world. He wrote, or co-wrote, eleven of the dozen songs here, and performs them with a spirit and grace often missing in the voices of other genre artists. His voice celebrates the music. Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" is the only non-original.

Bartley and Frank Coakley co-produced the release with ample accompaniment, and tracks such as "Welcome to the Spiral Dance" make you want to get up and dance. Eight musicians in addition to Bartley's multi-instrumental capability (guitar, electric guitar, harmonica, and ocarina) contribute flavor and zest to each track. A veritable choir of voices, including familiar names such as John Gorka (who co-authored "Cut by Wire" with Bartley), Jennifer Kimball, Greg Greenway, Jonatha Brooke, Catie Curtis, and Les Sampou chime in where desired. With all these forces, Bartley and Coakley resist the temptation to bury the songs in production. There's not a bad song here; most either subtly or overtly show a social consciousness. "The Wealthiest of Men" joins classics such as Utah Phillips' "All Used Up" in condemning the system that uses and then abuses working people. Like Phillips' song, Bartley tells it in the first person. He doesn't preach it, he lives it. In a more light-hearted vein, "We're All Alike" with it's almost skiffle rhythm, lists all the things we have in common, including some rather unusual things. If you can resist tapping your foot to this song, you're probably the type who can eat only one potato chip. Similarly, "Noah's Ark" retells the Biblical story in a highly poetic way as a moral lesson for present day. He concludes the recording with the inspirational "Let Falling Stars...", a reflection of life and love that leaves you with a feeling of having made an engaging and enjoyable journey with Bartley. My only complaint is a lack of booklet; there are no notes or lyrics, a pity considering the complexity of some of the songs. This CD belongs on your player.
~ R. Warr

"This is a wonderful album... full of soul, full of grace, overflowing with gems."
~ singer-songwriter Richard Shindell

"... a stunning, deeply intelligent, and beautiful CD of original songs..."
~ Scott Alarik, The Boston Globe

GEOFF BARTLEY One Kind Word Waterbug WBG-0046
Waterbug Records, P.O. Box 6605, Evanston, IL 60204
Music Reviews Quarterly, 21 Forest Ridge Drive, Arden, NC 28704
(828) 684-2083 e-mail: Issue #6 Spring 1999

A mellow, deep-voiced folk singer, Geoff Bartley is folk music at its best. He presents utterly simple music reliant only on the warmth of the performance, the quality of the songs, and the relevance of the lyrics. While instrumentation here is certainly full enough (drums, bass, piano, organ, lap steel, mandolin, Dobro, fiddle, sax, flute, pennywhistle, guitars), the point is to keep it simple and clean, and they do. The primary focus is Bartley's voice and the songs, and as One Kind Word unfolds, it's obvious that the focus is properly placed. Geoff Bartley has assembled some impressive friendships during his career, and here such folk noteworthies as John Gorka, Jennifer Kimball, Catie Curtis, Jonatha Brooke, and Greg Greenway stop by to offer vocal support. They do their jobs well, blending in nicely and adding smart shadings without taking attention away from Bartley's lead vocals. Likewise the players fit themselves to the songs well, whether it's offering some push and bite to "Natural Law" or staying mellow and subdued on "Welcome to the Spiral Dance". As for his own playing, Bartley is a well-established guitarist, earning recognition for numerous years at the National Fingerpicking Championships. His solo work on "Snowfall" here offers solid proof that his guitar playing is world class in both technique and taste. One Kind Word is one of those simple little gems that keeps folk music alive. Despite it's fine musicianship, it carries no pretensions with it. Warm, fluid, well-constructed, it recommends itself humbly. Geoff Bartley is completely familiar with folk music from both its traditional beginnings to its American blues adaptation, but he uses that knowledge to create his own distinct music. He sings with a voice of wisdom and compassion, and his songs indicate exactly the same things. What Bartley has here in One Kind Word is a timeless recording; it will survive because its music is timeless, its sincerity unquestionable, and its warmth as sure and comforting as flannel pajamas.
~ Brian Baker

Familiar Folk Star Shines Anew
Geoff Bartley One Kind Word Waterbug WBG-0046
The New England Folk Alamanac, December 1997
by Marilyn Rea Beyer, WUMB Folk Radio 91.9 fm, Boston

Geoff Bartley's new CD One Kind Word fits like a favorite old cashmere cardigan. A gift from someone dear that has become more comfortable and highly prized as time passes.

Bartley has been a guiding voice on the New England folk scene for a couple of decades now, currently giving new careers a weekly boost as host of the Cantab Lounge Open Mike. He's respected by the reigning monarchs of folk across the country and co-writes with the best of them (John Gorka and Jack Williams on this album). Here is a songwriter, then, who has plenty of laurels to rest on. Fortunately for us, Geoff Bartley doesn't seem to know that.

From the opening title cut, One Kind Word reaches out to the listener to hear and experience life in its grandeur ("Welcome to the Spiral Dance") and its most personal particulars ("Cut by Wire").

That first song sums up Bartley's appeal: "You got to work pretty hard to drive me away, but one kind word and I will stay". His sandy-velvet voice, his direct writing and superior playing invite you in. By the time his voice breaks on a high note during his masterful rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean", you're already there with an outstretched hand for a friend. He's real and he's just like you.

Jefferson's dark blues classic is Bartley's one cover on this outing and he follows it with a deceptively simple jug-band tune, "We're All Alike". Co-written with South Carolina's exquisitely ingenuous Jack Williams, this cut calls on numerous local artists in a homey pastiche of percussion, strings and harmony vocals with a sweet finish: Billy Novick's sax noodle and Geoff's spoken "Felt better!" His point, whether performing live, in studio or chatting at his kitchen table--- is to make sure that we're all better than we were the moment before.

Similarly, "Welcome to the Spiral Dance" and "Noah's Ark" encompass the entire human condition and in Bartley's world, it's a pretty darn good condition. It's not all sunlight and roses, though. Darker tones color Bartley's work as well. "Cut by Wire", a reference to a potter's practice of cutting wet forms with a wire tool (co-written with John Gorka), poignantly paints the aftermath of a beautiful love affair. There's the cautionary "A Letter from Prison" and the biting up-tempo tale of down-sizing, "The Wealthiest of Men."

While Bartley shines on acoustic guitar solos like "Snowfall", other arrangements on One Kind Word feature electric guitar and the now ubiquitous Hammond B-3 organ. In the hands of Bartley and his co-producer Francis X. Coakley, the powerful instruments are never gratuitous; rather, every note, every wail, contributes to the organic emotional whole. There's a gentle rocker with the storied harmonies of a multi-tracked Jennifer Kimball pulling the listener "Into the Deeper Blue." Spoken word, Matt Jenson's B-3, a screaming guitar solo and big harmonies propel "Natural Law" in a rush down the highway where "you can drive all night with your sunglasses on."

Taken as a whole, One Kind Word is a seamless emotional trip through the world of Geoff Bartley's finest work to date. Fittingly, the CD closes with the wistful "Let Falling Stars." Seth Connelly's subtle piano work illuminates details that become universal in Bartley's tender poetry. As the singer in the song makes plans to "give my possessions to the people in the square... let falling stars get tangled in my hair," the listener is sure to find a star that is still rising."

One Kind Word Geoff Bartley
Review from All Music Guide

Having started and shaped the careers of many of Boston's singer/songwriter stars, local legend Geoff Bartley continues to put out some of the best music anywhere. Singing of peace and friendship, life and death, Bartley demonstrates the truthful talents that have put him on stage with the likes of Tom Paxton and on par with countless other renowned performers. With the gently flurried instrumental "Snowfall", the friendly and casual singalong "We're All Alike", the strikingly arranged poetry and guitar of "Natural Law", the countrified feel of "One Kind Word", the lonely shanty-ness of "A Letter from Prison", and the gently calypsoed "Welcome to the Spiral Dance", the breadth of Bartley's offerings is as impressive as their depth. Paying precise tribute to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bartley also takes tips and hints from other musical heroes and colleagues (including guests John Gorka, Jonatha Brooke, Les Sampou, and Catie Curtis), adding his own experienced wisdom and creativity to forge songs that reveal the individual as much as the overall goals and rewards of music.
~ Matt Robinson


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