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Brooklyn folk musician
shows his potential

Willie Breeding - Cheap Vodka Rain
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 16, 2009
Willie Breeding

Review by Tony Bonyata

On Willie Breeding's debut full-length Cheap Vodka Rain the Brooklyn-based (by way of Richmond, KY) musician has crafted a pleasing effort that's steeped in age-old country, acoustic folk music and singer/songwriter fare from the early '70s.

The entire album was recorded in just a mere two days in a Brooklyn studio and the immediacy of the performances on these 11 tracks is evident - with stellar playing from a host of various NYC musicians. Despite blowing through this whirlwind session in very little time, the overall production and arrangements (courtesy of Dave Bielanko) are sumptuous and beautifully thought out - with haunting pedal steel, mandolin, fiddle and even the occasional Spanish horn melding with piano, a taut rhythm section and acoustic & electric guitars (the latter, which brings one of the standout tracks, "Bruises," to a fierce and fiery conclusion).

The album isn't without fault, however. Breeding's voice often doesn't sound fully-realized on a number of these songs - as if he's got his head into the delivery, but hasn't yet fully convinced his heart. The other thing that tends to weigh down this effort is that many of the songs are downtrodden and filled with sorrow. Now this may be a part of life (our perhaps more accurately part of Breeding's life while writing these numbers), but when he's got gems like the upbeat and poppier alt-country title track and "Cold When We Met" it would've been nice to mix in more of these up-tempo numbers. Still you can't fault the sadness of Gram Parsons that visits the beautiful "With Your Costume" or the sound of a young Ryan Adams on the song "Really Gotta Go."

The end result on Cheap Vodka Rain showcases an artist with strong songwriting skills that's also capable of corralling a talented group of like-minded musicians to pump further life into his songs. Breeding certainly shows his potential on this record. Here's hoping that he brings it to fruition on further releases.

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