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Paul Webb & Patti Casey, Stone Boat 

(Self-released, CD)

Talented Burlington composer Paul Webb's new recording Stone Boat once again features Vermont vocalist Patti Casey, whose luxurious pipes were a highlight of his 2001 release, Green Mountain Spring. In addition to Casey, Webb's latest boasts guest appearances from some of the area's most accomplished performers, including Paul Asbell, Dave Grippo and Kip Meaker. Stone Boat is a mood piece with an earnest vibe and breezy atmosphere, a bit like Van Morrison's classic Astral Weeks.

The disc's 13 cuts are tied together by Webb's dexterous piano playing and Casey's lush vocals. Overall, the work feels like a pleasant walk in the woods on a crisp fall evening. Although Casey provides the album's sole voice, she possesses enough versatility to invest each melody with unique character. Unfortunately, her vocals are sometimes buried in the mix, making it difficult to discern the lyrics.

Guest guitarist Colin McCaffrey's solo on "Charlotte Street" bears similarities to Dickey Betts' work on the Allman Brothers classic, "Jessica." Well-known axemen Meaker and Asbell contribute to several tracks; each one of their licks helps make Stone Boat a top-notch musical experience.

"By the River" -- the sole rockin' number on the CD -- offers a brief respite from the smooth sound that Webb and co-producer/engineer/synth player Peter Engisch have crafted. With its bluesy feel, the song stands out amongst the record's mellower numbers.

The disc's closing track, "Love Is a Simple Thing," is a waltz co-written by Carol Abair, another fine Vermont composer. On it, Casey's vocals pleasantly intertwine with Dave Grippo's sax and Webb's shimmering piano work. In many ways, Stone Boat ends much as it began -- with luxuriant instrumentation and a graceful melody.

In his more than 10 years of composing and performing, Webb has developed a signature sound, and Stone Boat provides a fine example. A CD release party featuring Casey and several guests takes place this Thursday, November 10, at the FlynnSpace in Burlington.

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