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Bill Madison – Passing On Love

I rarely put out an endorsement of a product on this website and only do so when I think the product is of high value – which in the case of this singer/songwriter – IT IS!

There is an axiom making its way around the world of music recording these days – that albums no longer sell. And, while that might be true of some, there’s still some pretty good albums being produced where every song makes it worthy of an enthusiastic purchase.

Bill Madison’s latest CD, ‘Pass On The Love’ is such an album! In it, you’ll find a unique array of covers and originals noteworthy, not just for their musicianship and singing but, for the emotion Bill brings to their lyrics. The crowning achievement of the album is Bill’s title song, ‘Pass On The Love,’ in which he addresses something that very few songwriters have touched upon – a mother’s love and the role that it plays in teaching boys and young men the significance of love in raising healthy families and in keeping families together. It is an incredible song!

In the songs covered in this album, even though some were written generations ago, Bill finds a way to connect listeners to the lyrics so they can relate to them and find meaning in them in today’s complex world. Track #2, ‘The Falcon,’ is a song written by folk-protest singer Richard Farina. It speaks of a majestic bird – who has the power to claim the skies, a power that is magnified by the intervention of man and his control over the bird. In Bill’s rendition, a prophetic, emotional indictment is made relative to the consequences of man playing with nature for his own amusement and how the end result is often drastic and often devastating. And, yes, the mandolin playing in this song is beautiful. In Track #3, Bill brings out a sense of melancholy in British folksinger Ewan McColl’s iconic working-class song ‘Dirty Old Town’ – while the place has been ravaged by industry, pollution and social ills, it’s still where people have had to live, to suffer and find the happiness they could.

Bill has us in Tom Waits’ ‘Heart Of A Saturday Night,’ letting go of things that we’ve had to deal with to grasp the free-time that we’ve earned and to discover what others might be doing to enjoy themselves. ‘Summertime,’ Track 5, well, it’s one of the best songs ever written. It’s Composer George Gershwin’s interpretation of African American spirituality and, in his cover of it, Bill does it well as he does with the old British Folksong, ‘John Barleycorn’ which compares the process of aging and dying to barley fermenting.

Mixing genres and showing just how eclectic he is in style and musicality, Bill adds in a cover of Robert Johnson’s, ‘Crossroad Blues’ – nailing the famous Delta sound with sharp voice, guitar and a touch of fine mandolin. Then, he takes us to a love story of sorts about a ‘well-traveled’ woman named Alice who meets up with a cowboy in a place where hard-earned money is easily spent and where love can go the same way – hard-earned and easily spent. We go on to another journey through love with a cover of folksinger Eric Anderson’s, ‘Looking Glass.’ The instrumentation in this one, along with Bill’s melodic lyric, offers a haunting reminder to would-be lovers that falling in love and loving can be a painful process.

This great CD contains some of Bill’s finest work. It ends with a cover of an Irish Folk Song, Jimmy McPeake’s, ‘Wild Mountain Thyme,’ a song dedicated to the memory of Bill’s friend, Rod MacKenzie. It is a beautiful/unforgettable rendition of a great song with lovely albeit haunting vocals.

I’ve put a link on this site to Bill Madison’s website because I greatly appreciate his music and his contributions to the genre of folk. Folk singing and balladeering is becoming a vanishing art in the music world. But, Bill’s love of music and his extraordinary creativity is helping to keep it alive.

Merle Burke

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