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MUSIC: Completing the Portrait  - Allan Byer's Money Talks Too Much

By Jeff Trainor of the Source 10/31/2005


Redmond singer-songwriter Allan Byer's third and latest album of songs, Money Talks Too Much, makes another snapshot of his progress as a writer, instrumentalist and recording artist available to the record-playing public. According to the liner notes, it also completes a larger portrait, reaching the goal of getting most of the songs Byer has written on disc. Sixteen of the seventeen tracks are new or previously unrecorded, and one ("It's the Law") revisits a song from his 2000 debut release.


Byer turned to Dean Prescott's Mirror Time Studios in Prineville for his third crack at a full-length recording. The resultant sound is strikingly clear and sophisticated when compared with Your Voice, Byer's 2003 LP.

The folksy instrumentation on Money Talks also steps things up a bit from previous efforts, with Prescott stepping in as lead guitarist, percussionist and producer. A handful of other locals add backing vocals, flutes, penny whistles, and...ahem...whistling (put-your-lips-together-and-blow style, that is).

Prescott's diverse approach to percussion, his tasteful sprinkling of echo and distortion over some of Byer's vocals, and his precision with his guitars do much to help keep things engaging through the record's 71 minutes.

For his part, Byer plays rhythm guitars and sings the lead throughout. His familiar, smoky-smooth voice is best highlighted on "It's Love," a guitar-and-voice tune that, on top of its instrumental simplicity, comes in as the album's shortest at just over two minutes.

Songs like "Falling Down," an examination of inner demons, and "Dad I Never Had," which dives into Byer's painful early family history, cut deeper in terms of subject matter. Those two provide the album's most touching moments.

Byer's lyrics, usually interesting, wander occasionally into the realm of verse bending to the cliché-wielding will of rhyme--take this line in "Questions For God," for example: "It takes you / it takes me / it takes us all together / then maybe we'll see / what the world can be."

Byer's songs are most fascinating overall when he's in a gospel mode, as in "I Believe" and "Father Make Me." Toe-tapping entertainment value jumps higher, however, with songs like "Food on the Run," where Byer avoids taking himself too seriously with lines like, "Living on Vitamin C, beer and potato chips / while a TV talk show host talks of leaving earth via spaceships," or the title track, wherein economic injustice undergoes a frank, though easygoing, assault. "Attitude" is a gentle kick, though it might best fill a kids' music niche with its simplistically groovy case for politeness.

There's so much material on Money Talks Too Much, Byer can't help but hit the sweet spot here and there. If we're lucky, he'll retire from his day job as a schoolteacher soon and fine-tune his artistic focus. Then, he'll surely turn out nothing but gems.

Review of Allan Byer's New CD, "Your Voice" by Tanya Ignacio, The Source.

Allan Byer is a positive guy. This is never more evident than in his latest album, Your Voice. The Central Oregon singer-songwriter’s second album is an upbeat, heartfelt amalgamation of folk, folk-rock, and blues songs. Byer’s lyrics express his general sense of appreciation for the world around him and the path he is on. In “Storm,” he sings “You might think that I might panic as I watch the storm in silence/but inside my heart beats stronger./In the storm, I hear a song/...Let it rain. Let it storm.” The last song on the album perhaps alludes to the source of his optimism. “The Bottle and Me” is a wry reminiscence of a battle with alcoholism and how trust in a higher power helped overcome dependence.

Byer is helped on this album by the talents of several local musicians. Matt Engle plays lead and rhythm guitar, harmonica, and bass; Kevin Lewis plays drums and percussion; Dr. Marc Sackman plays flute and sax; Steve Kulin chants, as well as playing piano, synth, and percussion; Ethan Allan King plays penny whistle, electric guitar, and provides support with harmony vocals; Christen Hawkins also sings harmony vocals. Byer normally plays solo or with his band, which includes Dr. Marc Sackman and Hal Worcester. The variety of instrumentation that appears on the album rounds out his normally pared down sound. Your Voice is a great second effort for one of Central Oregon’s hardest working musicians.

-(Tanya Ignacio, The Source, February 2004)
 
 

This Teacher’s Note is Musical by Andy Whipple of the Bulletin Jan. 2000

He likes Bruce Cockburn, a
guitar virtuoso and songwriter from Canada.
But with a CD title as sublimely ambiguous
as "Sometimes It Works," Allan Byer reflects
a broader background. More miles on life's
highway, more of its dead ends and
disappointments, and a less evangelical
handle on navigation.

Byer has been a teacher, and a
singer-songwriter, for 20 years. He has
lived in Central Oregon since 1993, and
spent a decade in Eugene. His day job:
special education at Hugh Hartman Middle
School in Redmond. Evenings and weekends:
wife and three children.

You don't need to be a parent or even
a teacher (and fortunately not both) to get
a sense of the amount of `free` time
parceled out by such commitments. It's
hardly surprising that `Sometimes It Works`
is Byer's very first CD. And when he says he
has enough material in the can for another,
you get a sense of what makes some
49-year-old guys look and act younger than
others.

When Byer's CD makes it to the music
shops, it'll be one of the very few that was
recorded in Prineville (at Dean Prescott's)
and remastered in Redmond (at Matt Engle's).
A fine example of acting locally and
thinking globally. Well, nationally.

If Byer makes good, the first local boy
he will acknowledge will be Prescott, who
played major roles as a musician and
teacher/motivator before serving as audio
engineer. Prescott adds harmony vocals and
lead guitar, in the studio and in the
spotlights at Cafe Paradiso. Three and a
half years ago, Prescott and Don Hoxie
launched a weekly open mike, and the
Thursday smorgasbord has survived and even
prospered. Performances range from
ready-for-the-city to painfully excessive
navel-gazing, but it's a pure and rarely
seen form of democracy.

`The cafe,` Byer says, `has been my
school of music. I had put it aside when I
stumbled in there in '97.` He's become a
regular item on Paradiso's musical menu, and
Prescott often reserves the last 15-minute
set for him. Byer will perform at the cafe
on Feb. 12 as part of the Central Oregon
Songwriters Association annual gala. COSA
has been good to Byer as well: In three
years of membership, he's received major
support … winning several song-of-the-month
awards … while providing a good example for
his younger counterparts.

Ask Byer which singer-songwriters
served as examples for him, and he'll start
with Cockburn. Next come Jackson Browne and
Van Morrison. But Byer returns to Cockburn,
whom he calls `my musical hero.` In
particular, a 1984 tune called `Making
Contact:`


li So many ways to understand

one for every woman and man

been that way since the world began ...

I feel so huge … I feel so small

I feel so good I want to swallow it all

... making contact

swimming in an ocean of love

making contact ...


lf A woman's love, a higher love,
physical and spiritual fulfillment: Cockburn
touches all the bases, albeit somewhat
choppily.

In the title cut of his CD, Byer tackles
the same issues and adds a quiet, deeply
personal reference:


li I let that higher power move in me

I find that ocean not too hard to sail

Everyone's at home there, everyone gets
to get well

Sometimes it works, sometimes it won't;

sometimes I do, darlin,' sometimes I
don't.

It's a choice that we make

It's a chance we all get to take

Sometimes it works ...


lf By losing the gloomy refrain
"sometimes it don't" in the final chorus,
Byer shows his best stuff as a songwriter.
After hearing the phrase four or five times,
listeners expect that negative note at the
end. Instead, Byer delivers a pleasant
surprise. It's a declaration of faith and
self-confidence, proving up on the
optimistic claim staked out in the title.


Personal Reviews from CD Baby Website

"An electric mix of rootsy instrumentation and harmonies that breaths fresh air with wide-reaching inspirations. Local groover Byer delights listeners with his refeshingly original folk rock sounds"

-Bend's The Source

"He delivers a pleasant surprise. It's a declaration of faith and self-confidence, proving up on the optimistic claim staked out in the title 'Sometimes It Works'."

-Andy WhippleThe Bend Bulletin


"Good honest songwriting from the heart,quite courageous at times! I like the flute!"

-Scott Foxx


"Byer can captivate you . . . even if you're sitting at home where you can't go run down and see him perform live. Listening to his Your Voice CD can captivate you still. His writing is worthy of a very close listen, check out what he's doing. . his performance is passionate and clean, his voice is wise and knowing. Overall, this CD should touch you way down. . . . . and that is a very VERY good thing."

-David Finch


"Honest and fun. Whatever more could one want? Reminds me of the intention of Jackson Browne but with Allan's own experience and sound. Upbeat and Higher vibrations...Yeah,man! It takes you there. Love, work and the good struggle for the highest intention AND chosing to stay in the joy. Thanks!"

-Christen Hawkins


"If you listen to Allan Byer's CD you will feel the presence of compassion and goodness. Byer's music is music to inspire! If you want toe tapping and tears in one album, you have to listen to this."

-jjorgensen


"I like this new album "your voice" because it is refreshly different . The Jazz flute improvisation adds a cool element to the overall sound. The voice quality is relaxed, smooth, and easy to listen to . Good wholesome lyrics are a big plus . I would recommend this C.D. to anyone !"

-Bob Behm


"Allan really outdoes himself on this one. The Producer captured "the songs". A very full sounding CD, with many little jewels in the mix. The performance and the guest musicians playing are great. Really timeless music. Check it out."

-Dean Prescott


"I just listened to "Your Voice" on Allan Byers new album. Since I enjoy eclectic art and creative lyrics this song fascinated me. I can only wait to hear the rest of the album. Nice organization and band sound-cohesiveness."

-Tom Schmidt


"Your Voice carries most of the voices each of us use day by day - expressions of individual experiences common to the unity of all humanity - love, fun, fears, and the dreams we hold onto. Such a pleasant way of being reminded to make life count."

-Jan Meredith


"Allan Byer and his band deliver a refreshing and original view on life. He's touching on the spiritual search, recovery, relationships and even does a tribute toNative Americans. This is weighty stuff. Seattle, WA"

-Anthony James


"Allan Byer is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter who plays a smokin' guitar."

-The Redmond Spokesman


"Allan Byer and his group provide a night full of originality and character."

-The Bend Bugle



 
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