By Brian Rill
Pint & A Half return from their part-time gig as Smeltertown ghost whisperers to record the stories of forgotten souls who paved the way through old mining town memories, while raising a rags-to-riches fairy tale in this western small town paradise of Salida, Colorado. Regrouping, the pair this time collaborates with legendary producer Don Richmond to release a product at the top of its game. Songs with multiple instruments such as steel guitar and violin lend to the classic country sound. The duo still has the same sound, but a more polished meter and maturity of songwriting seep through the sometimes brash, but mostly smooth, vocal harmonies.
Fans of Duke and Tami will be pleasantly surprised by the improvements in the production quality of this sophomore CD. Some songs have the same high pressure tempo to be expected from a bluegrass or pop country album; however, Duke takes a little more time with some of the slower ballads and this adds new dimension to the familiar sound. It is at best a remarkable independent work from hard working local musicians with amazing production quality, at worst an echo from a nostalgic time shipwrecked on the shores of our modern day. Duke Sheppard is a BMI songwriter who told me, for this album he worked much harder on the songs. This becomes apparent when the newer songs are contrasted with the inclusion of a remake of the title track from Pint & A Half’s first album, Blue Sky Earth.
With the final mastering done at Yes Mastering Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, the overall quality of this collection is very radio-friendly. Duke’s harmonica shines while Don Richmond’s accordion and organ stabilize the mix. The cover photograph was done in a Salida tintype photography studio by Tim Brown. Historical photos from the Salida Regional Library are included on the back and inside cover. Tami Sheppard plays her signature percussion that adds to their live shows. Her voice makes its best mark in the song Chinook, a slower -moving, softly structured shanty filled with beautifully haunting lyrics and languid sliding strings of a petal steel guitar. You might find yourself swaying along to the slower songs and somewhat nervously excited by the faster paced numbers. Either way the production quality deserves at least a cursory listen.
Brian Rill is a teacher, performer and activist poet voted Salida’s best musician 2009 and award-winning Latin songwriter.