Michael Cutting is a name that many of you will be familiar with. As one of the members of all-time CCM greats Holy Soldier, he shredded his way through the first and third albums (S/T and Promise Man) by the band. He has been working on a few projects since his departure from the band, but this is his first solo effort, which he has been working on for quite some time. And let’s get something out of the way right now…this is NOT a metal album. So let’s temper those kinds of expectations from the onset of this review.
So what kind of album is this? Well, it’s hard to categorize, really. It’s got a couple of rockers, some slow-mid paced tracks, and a few ballads in there too. The song styles are diverse, eclectic and moody.
Before we explore the content, though, I have to say the production is simply amazing, and I have been listening through MP3’s, which often can get muddy, but not in this case. There is thump in the low-end and crisp highs. The music is layered wonderfully and the balance between each of the instruments and vocals in the mix is masterful.
Getting back to the music itself, the record has a decidedly 90’s feel to it. The first song, “Table for One”, is one of the two faster paced rockers on the record and is clearly influenced by Alice in Chains. The second track, “Karma”, seems to closest to a Holy Soldier song in that it would have felt right at home on the Promise Man album. It is a seven minute track that moves into a jam that includes sitar and Indian vocals, keeping with its title.
The next several tracks slow things down a bit. We find soulful and introspective tunes such as “Crush” (nice layered BGV’s on this one) and “Never Forget” throughout the middle. At times just vocals and piano set the tone, with full band filling in later (“Leave it Behind”).
There are songs that are melancholy (“Happy Hollowdays”) while others are bluesy (“Shadow Man”). “Angel in My Mind” is an instrumental piece with beautiful vocalizations soaring over a softer instrumental layer. It reminds me of Dream Theater’s “Through Her Eyes” and is a very uplifting track. “Slip Away”, is the last original track and is very much in the same vein as the opener, rocking nicely with an early-mid 90’s feel. The bonus track is one last change of pace and genre. It’s a little musical number called “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” (not to be confused with the Broadway tune of the same name) performed in a way that might be what you might have expected to hear in the 1920’s or 30’s. I wasn’t kidding before when I said this collection is diverse and eclectic!
Michael Cutting displays a wide variety of styles in his playing on this release and shows his talent in that he pulls them all off with proficiency. You would think a guitar player’s solo project would be rife with shredding and over-the-top fret-board acrobatics, but that is not the case here. Michael keeps things in check and uses his playing to support and expand the songs, allowing the music and his songwriting to take center stage.
In the end, if you like a 90’s vibe and want to slow things down a bit, give this one a shot. I’ll give it 3.5 out of 5 stars, and it might be higher except this is a metal site after all. You can hear samples on Michael’s website http://www.michaelcutting.com/ and you can purchase the music there or through Amazon, iTunes or CDbaby. (indie)