1999 / EverSound
Review by Michael Debbage
After discovering the stirring acoustic guitar work of Tony Sandate last year, a desire to find accessible yet inspiring fretwork had been awakened. However, the exploration did not take long but it did require some archive digging courtesy of the EverSound label. They released an intriguing album by the unpretentious but provocative Australian guitarist John Mills back in 1999. Much like Sandate’s Sunset Meditation, this overlooked disc has the paradox of being equally accessible, as it is astute.
Largely disregarded Stateside, Australian guitarist John Mills has quietly impressed critics but apparently commercial success has avoided him. Listening to Hallowed Moon only seems to make this issue more puzzling as it is an album of quiet joy. In addition, with the exception of “Away In a Manger” and “Oh Where Would I Go” the album is pre-occupied with original compositions from the guitarist.
Hallowed Moon concentrates on John Mills’ guitar work though it does include embellishments from a few guest artists. One such guest is Lisa Harbor who adds her evocative violin and viola work. The most obvious track that features her is “This Winter’s Sadness” and most likely “Rhea’s Song”. Both tracks are reflective and poignant. In fact, this tone is also well represented by the opening track “So The Wind Won’t Blow It All Away”. Fortunately, the song is as lengthy as its title and is as refreshing as a soft gentle cool breeze on a warm summer day.
However, this album is more about Mills and his exquisite guitar work. His most optimistic work can be found courtesy of “For You”. Ever so lightly embellished by his minor percussion effects, the song is an utter bliss of melody and performance. This sanguinity is revisited on the closing track “An Unusual Summer”. However, if the more ambitious themes are preferred then check out “To The Hallowed Moon”. It clocks in over 8 minutes of music and during that time John explores the entire neck of his guitar without ever going over the top. It also features the labor of Lucy Bellfrage on oboe. Meanwhile, the illuminating “Into The Dark Night” explores a more classical guitar performance.
There have been many new moons over the seven years since Hallowed Moon was released back in 1999. Whether John Mills has been releasing additional recordings down under or under a different label is unknown. This is a shame as this guitar album, though impeccable performed, is equally as warm and friendly.
September 9, 1999
Review by Michael Debbage