Marrakesh Express – Northwest Indiana’s long popular Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tribute group – has completed and released a self-titled 11-song collection featuring their versions of seven CSN&Y songs, plus four original tunes.
The CD, released this month, was recorded at The Spot Studio in rural Schneider, engineered by studio owner John Huber and self-produced by the band.
One very tasty standout among those seven CSN&Y covers is the Stills-written gem “49 Bye-Byes.” Although Marrakesh Express does a wonderful job on the other six (their harmonies are always glorious), I wish the group had tackled other lesser known songs by the iconic band, rather than the more familiar favorites “Love the One You’re With” and “Carry On.” However, kudos is due for their delicious treatment of Young’s “Down by the River.” This timeless tune of betrayal and murder has been covered by many name artists over the years, including a wonderful jam version by late guitar great Roy Buchanan (on his 1978 “”You’re Not Alone” album), but the Marrakesh Express take on it here, captures the passion and soulfulness due the song.
The real treat on this album are the four original compositions. These solid songs collectively reveal Marrakesh Express is capable of much more than merely saluting one of the greatest vocal groups of all time. Given the vocal prowess within their group and the strong song crafting skills, this impressive region band – Daryl Grady, David Varella, Shawn Kelly, Rick Hemphill, Kevin Bryant, Bobby Belinsky, Glenn Miller and Mike Flannery – has the potential of becoming one of the great vocal groups of today.
As good as they are doing it; Marrakesh Express is too gifted as writers and too ear-pleasing as performers, to stay in the shadows of their musical idols. Surely, I am not alone in hoping to hear more of their own songs the next time they drop a dime on a recording session. Well done guys! More: www.marrakeshmusic.net or www.facebook.com/marrakeshmusic
• Midwest recording artist G.W. (Gary) Hill has donated his original song, “Quasar Suite,” to the “There Is Hope: Disaster Relief” digital album, a collection of 31 songs to benefit Music For Relief (www.musicforrelief.org), a charity rendering aid to those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. More: www.facebook.com/MusicofGWHill.
• This columnist begins a new radio adventure with a weekly music program on the airwaves of regional National Public Radio station, The Lakeshore 89.1. The new program, “The Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges,” will feature a variety of musical styles, themed shows and a mix of regional, national and international guests. The program will air at 6 p.m. Tuesdays starting Jan. 8. The weekly program will be preceded by the “Midwest BEAT Celebrity Christmas Special” airing at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, which mixes seasonal songs and celebs (Marilyn McCoo, Cuba Gooding Sr., Gary U.S. Bonds, Jim Peterik, Peabo Bryson and others) sharing thoughts about favorite holiday traditions and memories. The special will be rebroadcast at noon on Christmas Day.