Poetry of Wonder—Arthur Hinds (music review)

Poetry of Wonder—Arthur Hinds self-produced at Starbridge Studios (2008)

For over a decade, the (largely) acoustic band Emerald Rose, operating out of the greater Dahlonega, Georgia portion of the time-space continuum, has been offering up a mix of spirited, best-experienced-live music which features a central mix of Celtic influences and Pagan communal topicality. One of this ensemble, Arthur Hinds, has finally gone into the studio (Starbridge Studios, to be precise) and has emerged with his first solo offering, Poetry of Wonder. Crafted by Hinds in the first part of 2008, this is almost entirely a solo project, though there is shared writing credit on two tracks, and a couple of instrumental assists along the way from Hinds’ band mate, Logan Sullivan. This review was reminded not a few times of his first encounter with such a solo project, the first John Fogerty solo project, crafted just post Creedence Clearwater Revival, the semi-mythical Blue Ridge Rangers (1973).

This is not to suggest Emerald Rose’s imminent demise; far from it. It is rather to pay tribute to the scope of Hinds’ undertaking here. Before looking at the program, however, it needs to be said that Hinds, like the band he plays with, is a musical experience best heard live (though the nature of many of the arrangements here would make that a challenge, as the work exists as a carefully orchestrated marriage of instrumental and vocal overdubs). Much of the best of the work here would survive a leaner re-working, though the marvelous closer would need some sort of augmentation to move the listener as it does on this disc.

A final overall observation: this disc functions in many respects as a Revival Songbook, with hymns of various constructions found throughout, suggesting that the listener can find spiritual succor via some of the older belief systems commonly lumped today into the Pagan rubric. When presented with both earnestness and enthusiasm, these songs and their messages are a fine meeting place of head and heart, and Mr. Hinds is nothing if not emphatically earnest and enthusiastic when it comes to his music. That many of these songs are leavened with whimsy only adds to their impact and charm.

The opening tune is “Cast Away” and features Hinds on guitar, lead and harmony vocals, and percussion (this multitasking will inform many of the songs herein). It is a pagan encouragement to follow one’s heart and not miss a critical moment in the search for fulfillment. It is followed by the title cut, “Poetry of Wonder”, a song propelled by bongos (?!), and a refrain suggesting that madness and oblivion are never that far away. The prevailing chord progression here is infectious, and serves the tune well. In “Circle of Love”, ghosts in the machine inform and cloud the search for meaning and truth, and in the single Emerald Rose tune here, “Never Underestimate”, Hinds reminds us that we misjudge the mystery at the heart of Woman at our peril.

One of the two strongest songs on the disc, “The Blood of Summer” is next. Rolling acoustic guitar work at the opening gives way to gorgeous vocals, as Hinds paints word-pictures of an Earth coming into its fullness in the height of summer. Man is bound up in the cycle of renewal, and the song hangs on the ear like yet another gift of the richness of summer. Next is the strong and simple love song, “My Emerald Rose”, sung with enormous heart and great joy in honor of one beloved and central to the being of the singer. Driving drumbeats and a chanted mantra invoking incarnations of the Goddess drives “Pantheon”, a hypnotic paen with the second-best resolve on the disc.

The big surprise of the disc, “Greenwood Woman” (featuring lyrics by Kathryn Hinds) is fueled by a Spanish sensibility, and really lifts off during a Flamenco bridge that fairly flies; the whole work is anchored with Sullivan’s rock-solid bass lines. This song gives Hinds a chance to really let his baritone work, and he pays the opportunity off with brio. We get a little electric with “Listen”, an odd turn suggesting early Grateful Dead as revival tent house band; again it’s Sullivan on the amplified strings. Invocation in a country-flavored vein continues with “Do the Round Thing”, in which Hinds encourages a lunar dance as respite from the workaday world. The disc closes with a brilliant moment, the luminescent “Sing”, which is carefully built on a bass vocal ground, the underpinning for a nuanced, multi-layer chant which claims the power and magic of music, especially as rendered by the human instrument.

Here, then is Arthur Hinds’ first solo outing, Poetry of Wonder. It can only be hoped that there will be other such explorations in our future.

Arthur and his music can be found here: www.Soundclick.com/arthurhinds

and also: arthur@emeraldrose.com