Jeff Hatch, the cornerstone of Ponyno, was working on a song one night, struggling with words, and all of a sudden everything flowed. Words poured out of the sky, you might say, and before Jeff knew it, I Believe was completed. The next day, he heard that a dear friend had died unexpectedly during the night, one Louis Borges, and he somehow knew that Borges had helped him write that song. Hatch had known Borges for some time, had admired his relationship with his wife and his totally positive outlook on life. Borges was friend in every sense of the word. No doubt, "I Believe" is both happy and sad for Hatch, a musical reminder just how precious life is. It is that theme which ties together all of the songs of Rosa Mystica. If Hatch did not know that life is good when he started this project, he knows it now.
One listen should convince you that he did indeed know. Hatch is a spiritual man, for sure, but that spirit is not always dominated by that of religion. He lives as much in the Spirit of Man, if you will, that impossible to define spirit of brotherhood which drives so many of us to do good. Thus, from the rocking Mother of God and Could It Be to the churchy and ethereal All Our Life and I Believe, the songs are infused with an uplifting attitude, a look at life from above, be it in spirit or otherwise.
The songs all work, some a little better than others (as with all albums). There is the Jimmy Buffett-influenced On Your Way, with its steel drums and smooth rocking beat; the harder rocking All Comin' Back; the choogling Anne Marie, with its great full-chorus-as-vocal effect and simple but amazingly effective guitar break; and the country-influenced and twangy-without-hoke There's a House. There is even the very Parrish and Gurvitz-sounding Stone Cold Love, a real plus for the few of us who remember with great affection the one early '70s album released by that short-lived duo.
Where Hatch and crew really do their magic, though, is on the aforementioned All Our Life and I Believe, spiritual and uplifting in so many ways. The high is pushed higher on each by a chorus reminiscent of those employed on the '50s recordings of Red Foley and Vaughn Monroe and while Hatch does not have the basso profundo eminence of those two (so few have had), he shrouds himself within the voices surrounding him to perfection. The sound is seldom achieved, odd in itself because of its simplicity, and is most welcome.
Hearty pats on the back go to Hatch, of course, but also to Nick Holman and Angel Weaver for their choral work and background vocals, to Margretha Bjorklund for her spot on work on pedal steel, and to Jeremy Manly's incredibly apt church organ sound. And Gary Reynolds? Button-pusher, first class.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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