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Joe Ross (Roots Music Report) 19 January 2012
Underlying sweetness and a sense of wonder
Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Chris Ronald is usually heard in intimate listening environments where there is ample stage space, cold beer and good burgers. Restaurants, music circles and open mics are great places for small, attentive audiences to experience his music in its purest, unamplified form.
In concert, he also talks about his influences, song ideas, inspirations, and the songwriting craft. Chris Ronald has been writing music for nearly three decades, and Turning Tides is an ideal way to bring the songcrafter’s relaxing music right into your own living room. With folk, pop and even a few soft rock influences, this album is a definitive portrait of his music with its thoughtful lyrics and insightful observations on family, love, places and life.
Chris’ warm tenor voice is soothing, and he usually tracks his own vocal harmonies. The uncluttered production results in songs that emphasize Chris’ guitar, vocals and occasionally some harmonica. I particularly enjoy hearing clear, resonant lyrics which are easy to understand and relate to. I would encourage him to upload his words and messages right to his website.
Chris plays all instruments on “Turning Tides,” with the exception of a few contributions from Fred Beach (bass), Kent Anderson (mandolin), Ily Barnes (drums), Kamile Kapel (piano, backing vocals), and Steve Taillefer (electric guitar). Chris moved from Great Britain to Canada in 2002. He was embarking on a career change from sales into teaching. About that time a college course in multi-track recording software allowed him to economically document some his music on disc. His first album Pacific Time was released in 2004 and is only available from the artist. Eight years later, Turning Tides is a strong and delightful second effort that displays the ebbs and flows of his life.
He opens the set with a warm, upbeat, well-arranged rendition of “Sunshine” that is probably a testament to his wife and three children that bring “color to the world.” The importance of family and love are emphasized when the album closes with a lean, fingerpicked reprisal of the same song. The same theme is found in “Evergreen” and “Simple Things” with their distinct echo of sensitive and sympathetic singer/songwriters from decades ago. While Chris’ songs have marked appeal to baby boomers of my generation, songs like the contemplative “Please Don’t Come for Me Now” and “Best Place on Earth” have some charming contemporary folk elements that will pull in a younger demographic of fans for Chris’ pure, unadulterated music.
Chris Ronald’s soulfulness complements the intimacy of this project. His clear, plaintive vocals work best on the most introspective tracks, as well as with the beautiful melodies and subtle, lyrical charm of songs like “Sailing from Nanaimo” and “Home to Roost.” Chris Ronald has found music as the perfect medium for sharing thoughts and musings with underlying sweetness and a sense of wonder.
Ken Eisner (The Georgia Straight) 27 October 2011
Chris Ronald keeps it simple on Turning Tides
Every once in a while you bump into a local artist who makes you wonder where his obvious talent has been hiding for so long. English-born Vancouverite Chris Ronald is one of those. His beautifully clear tenor voice instantly makes him sound like an old friend you forgot you knew. But that would only be a pleasant feature if he didn’t write such great songs.
There are no American Idol barnburners on Turning Tides, just a lot of catchy, strum-happy numbers in the ’70s singer-songwriter tradition. Certainly, extra-smooth voices from that era, such as Jackson Browne, Marc Jordan, Stephen Bishop, and the late Kenny Rankin, come to mind on acoustically driven ditties such as the opening (and closing) “Sunshine” and the breezy “Sailing From Nanaimo”. But the spare, self-produced record isn’t particularly retro. Songs like the relatively lush “So Long” and “Home to Roost”, with their moody keyboard interludes and stacked male harmonies, fit in with contemporary indie sounds. And the showstopping “Please Don’t Come for Me Now” has the Celtic tug of the Swell Season—although when pianist Kamile Kapel adds her vocals on “Let Her Go”, the feel is more country, albeit in the Richard and Linda Thompson direction.
These comparisons are misleading, since the album—his second, but the first to be widely available—stands as a well-integrated program of refreshingly original, unguardedly personal compositions. Some of the arrangements, centred on the artist’s basic guitar and occasional plaintive harmonica, could be a little more complex. (The only other thing the album really needs is a new cover; its murky Photoshop package makes this look like a John Tesh throwaway side project.) In any case, the music’s simplicity keeps clutter away from that glorious voice.