Chris J. Connolly – Flying Lessons (2015)

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The more that the voice and the songs of singer-songwriters are more exposed due to light accompaniment, the easier it is to know if their songs and their singing is truly good. Chris J. Connolly holds himself up to that kind of scrutiny and he acquits himself well.

Hailing from Staffordshire, England but now calling New York home, the Transatlantic troubadour makes his living much the same way Neil Young often did — and still does — without a full backing band. His debut album Flying Lessons, out January 20, 2015 via Diversion Records is a fresh take on this old, no-fuss approach to making music.

Connolly’s songs are often backed by sweet-sounding, interlacing acoustic guitars and sometimes a sparking electric, putting his high tenor vocal and rich harmonies up front and center. And, just as crucially, catchy melodies.

Every song has its own charm: the high harmony highlights “Black Swan,” while the blend of electric and acoustic guitars behind Connolly pillow-soft harmonies make “Million Colours” instantly appealing. With a campfire harmonica to go along with an acoustic guitar, “Bravery” reminds me most of Young. “Not Alone” grabs the listener’s attention when another coat of guitars are added after the first verse, then just as dramatically, it’s pulled out. A moaning, single note line from a tube-y electric guitar acts almost as a second vocal on “Wild Beast,” and a full band is employed on “The Peddler,” generating a pretty good groove.

Altogether, Flying Lessons is a successful launch for Chris J. Connolly, who wisely focuses on doing a few, vitally important things and do them well. Keeping it simple is the key for making it great.

Visit Chris J. Connolly’s website to find out more.

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