Jeff Blaney- "The Devil's Hopyard"
Autumn is upon us, and with that, all things spooky! This installment of Third Half Review brings you an entirely different kind of album, so put down your pumpkin spice latte and get ready for a fresh new release! Jeff Blaney has channeled his veteran songwriting skills and swelling stage experience into his latest offering, 'The Devil's Hopyard', a scary, intense, and at times humorous theatrical musical that drops just in time for Halloween! Local folklore fans will love the incorporation of familiar and lesser-known legends, seamlessly weaved into this hair-raising, campfire-worthy story. As we make our way into the album, it welcomes us with "Chorus of Retribution", an inky, dark rock anthem with a foreshadowing aura. Steve Peterson's driving drum beat ebbs and flows along our journey into the tale ahead, where we transition to Suzanne Pedemonti's comfortable narration through "Haunted", where we meet the first subject of our story. Illustrating the heartbreak borne by our first character, the second musical number, "The Mourning" transports us into the depths of a broken heart with a folk song of loss and regret. Jeff's wistful, nostalgic voice sings us into understanding, lilting amongst the lonely strains of his mandolin, before giving way to the second narrated track, "Dumb Supper". This is where we meet the next member of our cast.
Enriching the plot and gaining insight into the characters' relationship, our chronicle moves along into musical track "I Just Want To Be A Kid", sung by Noah Blaney. It takes us further down the path, skipping along with a lighthearted banjo track by Rob Blaney, and into the narration of "Fire", where we begin to understand the possibilities that can befall a hallowed eve such as this. The next song unfolds with Jennifer Richard's vocals and guitar in "Into The Light". She sweetly sings us an angelic, heroic folk-pop tune of peace, forgiveness and strength, before we are transported back into our story with "The Lamb". Liam Blaney makes a cameo vocal appearance in this scene, and the plot starts to quicken as we begin to comprehend what mischief may befall our characters.
Their story takes a sinister turn with "Midnight Mary". Bassist Josh Romanowski thumps us down into the depths of the track where Dorothy Daniel (of the Nashville, TN band "The Danberrys") takes us away with her slick, ominous voice in this heavy metal rock interlude. This track also features another out-of-town special guest, Boston-based guitarist, Andrew Gravel, from "The Gravel Project". Our narrator whisks us back to terra firma in "The Pixie's Guard", as the ghost story continues to unfold before us. Encountering a surprising plot twist, the listener is left to their devices, and disbelief, as the jaunty instrumental reprise of "I Just Want To Be A Kid" rolls us back into our senses. Jeff Blaney stands out boldly in his dedication and skill as a writer and producer. The way he's expertly developed and presented fully fleshed, relatable characters and story line, in a record that has a run time of just under 30 minutes, is no small feat. As Jeff is no stranger to the live stage (his first two concept theatrical albums were adapted into productions by Ivoryton Playhouse and the Sea Tea Comedy Theater), he knows innately how to impact his audience with "all killer, no filler". The story contained in 'The Devil's Hopyard' is fluid, contiguous and flows naturally. Jeff's songs are catchy and heartfelt, and evoke real emotion from the listener. His storytelling virtuosity conveys gracefully between spoken and musical portions of the album. In talking to Jeff about the album, his family, experiences and musical background, the first thing a listener might notice is his incredible warmth and sincerity. Jeff's witty, affable personality, combined with his well rounded musicianship produces an album that is lovable from every angle. Having written the songs, narration, and music, as well as playing many of the instruments, vocal tracks and recording the album, he and his cast has truly delivered a full package of Halloween entertainment. 'The Devil's Hopyard' drops on Friday, October 13th, for all of you curious boys and ghouls. You can get it here: https://jeffblaney.bandcamp.com/
Jeff's Facebook Artist page: https://www.facebook.com/chuck.finley.79677471 Want more? Jeff can be found playing live as a solo artist, with The Blaney Brothers, and The Dead Dawgs *Editrix's note: As the album has not been released at the time of this review, Third Half is giving away no spoilers. Check out the story for yourself, and share with all your friends! Trick-or-Treat!