Hunter Altschul (www.hunteraltschul.bandcamp.com) is 20 years old. He is a singer/songwriter with four CD’s already to his name: PEDESTRIAN (2008), LO-FI TRACKS (2009), BELOW THE CURRENT (2010), and TINY THERMOSTATS (2010). He plays guitar in a style that at times represents the honesty of John Prine (think Angel From Montgomery, 1971, Atlantic), the sincerity of James Taylor (think Sweet Baby James, 1970, Warner Brothers), or the longing of early Elton John (think Your Song, 1970, Universal City Records). And now Hunter Altschul has created a musical art piece with his fifth and most recent 2011 CD titled THE NIGHT SKY.
While it is tricky and perhaps arrogant to summarize someone so young who has so much real talent in hand and so much potential time ahead, I would presume to do so with just three words: purity of essence. Purity of essence is a quality – a magical quality – of childhood that is most often beaten from us in adolescence and at which we can only leer longingly from adulthood. It is that fragile ability to see colors when everyone around you has reduced the world to black and white. It is that feverish capacity to hear music in a room that thunders with deafness. It is the unselfish willingness to connect so honestly to oneself that it hurts. But most of all, if our soul is a seed and our spirit is a tree, then purity of essence is the straightest line between the two. And musically, Hunter is so directly in touch with both his soul and spirit that his songs will bring you home to yours.
With a voice sweet as the creme in the brulee, soft as the feather in the down, and gentle as the wind in the breeze, he sings in formless sonnets, meterless haiku, and with such free stream of consciousness that there is nary a rhyme upon any of his lyrical horizons. At the precipice of early adulthood, he invokes words that are simultaneously timeless yet lovingly insightful to create images that juxtapose the intense, suffocating angst of adolescence against the smoldering, agonizing angst of adulthood. And he does it all in such a Robert Leroy Johnson (1911-1938) raw fashion (sans effects – digital, analog or otherwise) in both his live and CD performances that I almost dropped my tea the first time I heard him sing at Your Big Picture Cafe’s open mic (Davie, Florida, 07/23/11).
Now, I may have trespassed a bit too far into quotidian territory by trying to summarize Hunter, but I will not do so with his music, because it is boundary-less and beyond outline. He lyrics uncover so many spectrums of the beating heart, and so many nuances of life’s delicacies and indelicacies, that three dimensions hardly seem sufficient to hold the very disks upon which his words have been burned. At times they implore near universal images of youth’s uncharted journeys, as in MARCH 20th where he declares I’m going to stay here or at least I’ll try, sleeping on t-shirt pillows. In parts they carry Tom Waits like demure frustrations (in spirit, not voice) as in YOUR CAR when he sings my heart feels so hungover, what happened last night? second thought I don’t care, just pour me another. Then without warning he can take you into a Yellow Submarine (The Beatles, 1966) fantasia as in OLD FISHING LINE where it’s a line and it’s shining so golden, I just want to take it and start knitting a microphone that reaches for our singing faces. There are, in fact, so many inspiring sights and sounds to wonder upon in Hunter’s latest CD that each song is like a daydream plucked upon a heart string that will brilliantly resonate from your spirit to your soul.
Ultimately, Hunter Altschul’s THE NIGHT SKY all boils down to a ten-track CD in which I have found 11 favorites – tracks 1 through 10, and Hunter – for his songs have given me an unexpected and engaging universe to explore. Get a copy and see what new constellations he has in store for you.
(or as Prince would say, the CD reviewer once formerly known as Dr. Bob)