by John M. Borack
Jack Mittleman – English River (Spinning Records)
I was introduced to Jack Mittleman’s music a few months ago by our mutual friend Nelson Bragg (percussionist for Brian Wilson’s band), who asked if I’d be interested in writing a review of Jack’s latest release, English River. After receiving the CD, I spun it constantly for two or three weeks; the melodies are soothing and intricate, the songs deeply personal yet filled with emotions we’ve all experienced, the vocals both hauntingly beautiful and real. I was hooked.
English River is a low-key masterpiece of a disc, touching on chamber pop, acoustic-based confessionals and autobiographical sweetness, fed by some Beach Boys-influenced harmonies (including contributions by Bragg and the Merrymakers’ David Myhr), bright-sounding guitars, strings, horns and sumptuous songs. It rocks (“Deeper Waters”), it tugs on the heartstrings (the gently loping “Not the One”), it’s hopeful-yet-sad (“Hard to Draw the Line,” “Lay Your Burden Down”), it’s hauntingly gorgeous (“Out of the Blue”) and it tugs on the heartstrings some more (Mittleman’s lovely ode to his late mother, “Song For Frima”).
Less than a month after I received the disc, I heard the horrible news that Jack Mittleman had succumbed to cancer. I wish I’d had the opportunity to thank him for English River, but I’ll have to be content with simply listening to his beautiful final recorded statement and mourning the loss of a true musical talent who left us too soon. Rest in peace, Jack. More info available at www.jackmittleman.com