Vin Downes
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Vin Downes

Bayonne, New Jersey, United States | SELF

Bayonne, New Jersey, United States | SELF
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""What Falls Away" ~ CD Review"

Short on length at only a bit more than 32 minutes, Vin Downes’ latest solo CD, "What Falls Away" nonetheless brings an enjoyable listening experience throughout its 9 tracks. Downes is a good fingerpicker, with a solid understanding of what makes a good song good. He keeps us anchored to the melody while exploring the aural dimensions that multiple fingers allow up and down the fretboard. We don’t get any modern techniques like two-handed tapping, just straight ahead fingerstyle guitar. The title cut "What Falls Away" is played on nylon string, a gentle dance that suggests what falls away may still have life. Maybe the most challenging piece on this CD is the contrapuntal "Under Sail and Star," with a deft mix of chord and sliding melodies. The longest cut is "Longfield and Cattails." Moving through the familiar A-B form, Downes calls and answers in various ways while returning us to the center of the melody. "Seeing Through" has some shades of early Chris Proctor playing and writing, a fine lyrical piece. The final cut "Running Fences" has some qualities of a rag, but breaks out of that style as the treble line undulates from phrase to phrase. While Downes won’t blow anyone away with mind-altering playing like a Tommy Emmanuel or Laurence Juber, "What Falls Away" is simply a CD of fine acoustic guitar music. - Kirk Albrecht ~ Minor 7th


"Skies and Openings by Vin Downes"

Let me start this CD review with a question. "If you had to plan for an important meeting tomorrow morning and needed some musical background which could enhance both your ability to focus and your ability to relax at will, to what would you listen? "

I suspect that it would not be much of the music one encounters when surfing the FM dial these days. Contemporary pop music that comes out of the speakers seems too often to be generated by sharping and flatting singers warbling barely decipherable melodies...Not the stuff of music calculated to either enhance or to smooth the brain of the man on the street. .

Enter the dramatically different instrumental world of Mr.Vin Downes. His new album entitled Skies and Openings slid into my auditory canals as a most pleasant surprise. Vin is a multi instrumentalist (guitar/ banjo/ ukulele) backed up on this album by highly talented musical co-conspirators on bass, drums, and violin.


While the songs on the album are distinctly softer than the brash stuff that dominates today's airwaves, make no mistake. Vin's material is neither simple-minded easy listening nor boring elevator music. I discovered that I could listen to and absorb this fascinating album in at least two distinct ways.

[1] At one level Vin's compositions serve as the perfect complement to considered thought. Cramming for a final or preparing for a job interview would be a lot easier with Vin and company holding down the anxiety level and soothing the soul.

[2] Conversely, during a "study break" from topical concentration, one is strongly attracted to focus upon the superlative instrumental skills displayed by the Mr. Downes. It comes as a welcome relief from much of the daily guitar thrashing on air to discover what sounds can be teased out of the wood that goes into a fine acoustic guitar. After listening to many an over-produced album, it is also certainly refreshing to actually hear the very real sound of fingers sliding from fret to fret in the mix.

Of the songs on the album, my two favorites are
So She Spins: A winsome laid back instrumental waltz that sent me into the realms of introspection.
Pen City Rag: Reminds me of some of Ry Cooder's material on the soundtrack of the movie The Long Riders. Real roots music.

The album cover art is just that: art. Three shots of Vin with his guitar, a sunset shot with the song list superimposed, and a montage of the recording team in the studio. Simple design, but it fits well with the spareness of the music it encapsulates.
So visit vindownes.com, drop a little coin, throw a log on the fire and relax to Skies and Openings. - Tim Little ~ Michigan Bluegrass Newsletter Association


"Skies and Openings by Vin Downes"

Let me start this CD review with a question. "If you had to plan for an important meeting tomorrow morning and needed some musical background which could enhance both your ability to focus and your ability to relax at will, to what would you listen? "

I suspect that it would not be much of the music one encounters when surfing the FM dial these days. Contemporary pop music that comes out of the speakers seems too often to be generated by sharping and flatting singers warbling barely decipherable melodies...Not the stuff of music calculated to either enhance or to smooth the brain of the man on the street. .

Enter the dramatically different instrumental world of Mr.Vin Downes. His new album entitled Skies and Openings slid into my auditory canals as a most pleasant surprise. Vin is a multi instrumentalist (guitar/ banjo/ ukulele) backed up on this album by highly talented musical co-conspirators on bass, drums, and violin.


While the songs on the album are distinctly softer than the brash stuff that dominates today's airwaves, make no mistake. Vin's material is neither simple-minded easy listening nor boring elevator music. I discovered that I could listen to and absorb this fascinating album in at least two distinct ways.

[1] At one level Vin's compositions serve as the perfect complement to considered thought. Cramming for a final or preparing for a job interview would be a lot easier with Vin and company holding down the anxiety level and soothing the soul.

[2] Conversely, during a "study break" from topical concentration, one is strongly attracted to focus upon the superlative instrumental skills displayed by the Mr. Downes. It comes as a welcome relief from much of the daily guitar thrashing on air to discover what sounds can be teased out of the wood that goes into a fine acoustic guitar. After listening to many an over-produced album, it is also certainly refreshing to actually hear the very real sound of fingers sliding from fret to fret in the mix.

Of the songs on the album, my two favorites are
So She Spins: A winsome laid back instrumental waltz that sent me into the realms of introspection.
Pen City Rag: Reminds me of some of Ry Cooder's material on the soundtrack of the movie The Long Riders. Real roots music.

The album cover art is just that: art. Three shots of Vin with his guitar, a sunset shot with the song list superimposed, and a montage of the recording team in the studio. Simple design, but it fits well with the spareness of the music it encapsulates.
So visit vindownes.com, drop a little coin, throw a log on the fire and relax to Skies and Openings. - Tim Little ~ Michigan Bluegrass Newsletter Association


"Skies and Openings Review"

Vin Downes is a fine musician with a degree in classical guitar performance. "Skies and Openings" is his debut CD, produced by Downes and Anthony Saint James, and it has already received national recognition. Vin cites Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke as influences. Echos of both can be clearly heard, in addition to shades of Alex Degrassi.

This is a well-produced recording of eleven tracks, seven solo and four with bass and drums. They evoke various styles and moods, from pensive and meditative to rag and movin'-down-the-road grooves. Downes plays mostly in non-standard tunings, displaying a mastery of the finger-style guitar.

All of the tracks on this CD are strong, but a few stand out. The first track, "Skies and Openings," opens the ears with a well articulated and well harmonized melody that has a Celtic flavor. "Words Over Us" takes us through different tonal colors, underpinned by bright flowing movement. "Climb" is a thought-provoking theme played against a deliberate "one foot in front of the other" rhythm.

"So She Spins" won an award in the Great American Song Contest. This elegant and graceful waltz is a duet with violinist Jeffrey Young. "Kian's Blues" is rich, full and open with unpredictable dissonant intervals that show Vin's love of jazz. The playfulness of "Pen City Rag" then brings us back to earth. "Sachem Road Goodbye," another rag-influenced composition played flawlessly on the ukulele, provides a short and sweet finale that leaves the listener conjuring images of lively dancers, ready to take on whatever comes next.

That could well be listening to Vin Downes again. I expect we will be hearing more from this accomplished guitarist and composer.

Alan Kausal

Victory Music
- Victory Music Magazine


"PBS "Roadtrip Nation" Featured Artist"

PBS has selected four songs from "Skies and Openings" to be included in the soundtrack of its series "Roadtrip Nation". Songs will be featured in episodes 3, 6 and 10 of season seven. - PBS Roadtrip Nation


"Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting Award"

"So She Spins" is a wonderfully impressive composition in all major respects. The melodic elements are fresh, emotionally resonant and consistently excellent. Vin Downes has amazing talent. It is a genuine pleasure to review such high quality work.

~ Great American Song Contest Evaluation - Great American Song Contest


"Skies and Openings"

On Skies and Openings, what Vin Downes will open is your eyes and ears to the talent of this New Jersey-based fingerstyle guitarist. His debut recording features eleven original songs influenced by Americana, Blues, Classical, Folk and Jazz...

- Kweevac.com - www.kweevac.com


"Skies and Openings"

Like many other fingerstyle players, Vin Downes holds a degree in classical performance but found his own musical trajectory changed by hearing the music of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke. "Skies and Openings" is Downes' debut CD, seven solo performances and four tracks augmented by musical friends on bass, drums and violin. The title track is a melodic ode-to-joy reminiscent of Phil Keaggy's soaring style of composition and mood. "Climb" is a slow jackhammer groove but at intervals morphs into something balmier -- a giddying revolving door of emotion. On the face of it, "Mudshine" is a clawhammer blues, but there is just something a little different going on -- again, brief modal interludes are tossed in here and there to surprise. "Skies and Openings" is a truly impressive debut by an independent artist. © Alan Fark

Alan Fark - Minor 7th
www.minor7th.com - Minor 7th


"So She Spins"

So She Spins - Vin Downes

Rated Top 3

-Excellent guitar performance

-Excellent composition & arrangement

-Good Music production, Radio Ready

Rating: 9/10

IAMA Judge - International Acoustic Music Awards 2/16/2010 - International Acoustic Music Awards


"Skies and Openings"

Like many other fingerstyle players, Vin Downes holds a degree in classical performance but found his own musical trajectory changed by hearing the music of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke. "Skies and Openings" is Downes' debut CD, seven solo performances and four tracks augmented by musical friends on bass, drums and violin. The title track is a melodic ode-to-joy reminiscent of Phil Keaggy's soaring style of composition and mood. "Climb" is a slow jackhammer groove but at intervals morphs into something balmier -- a giddying revolving door of emotion. On the face of it, "Mudshine" is a clawhammer blues, but there is just something a little different going on -- again, brief modal interludes are tossed in here and there to surprise. "Skies and Openings" is a truly impressive debut by an independent artist. © Alan Fark

Alan Fark - Minor 7th
www.minor7th.com - Minor 7th


"Skies and Openings"

Skies and Openings is an incredible debut from Vin Downes. Reminicent of Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges but with a distinct style and voice. "So She Spins" is a stand out track with a sweet lyrical melody that reminded me of Pat Metheny at times. "No Returning" has a melancholy that draws the listener in and as with all of the tracks, creates it's own atmosphere and transports the listener somewhere else. "Mudshine", "Climb" and "Kian's Blues" will impress fans of blues as well. A must have for fans of fingerstyle guitar and acoustic instrumental CDs. Technical yet simple. No overplaying. Every note counts and stands on its own.
Read more... - Dave Kurtiak ~ eMedia Music


"Skies and Openings CD"

Wonderful CD! I hear a little Renbourne in there as well as Lightning Hopkins .I mostly hear your personal and inventive takes on musical ideas that you've dedicated yourself to exploring and absorbing.You deserve to feel proud to be so expressive and creative.Your influence will reach and inspire others in times to come! - John Sheehan ~ NJ Fingerstyle Guitar Alliance/Recording Artist


"Skies and Openings"

Skies and Openings is an incredible debut from Vin Downes. Reminicent of Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges but with a distinct style and voice. "So She Spins" is a stand out track with a sweet lyrical melody that reminded me of Pat Metheny at times. "No Returning" has a melancholy that draws the listener in and as with all of the tracks, creates it's own atmosphere and transports the listener somewhere else. "Mudshine", "Climb" and "Kian's Blues" will impress fans of blues as well. A must have for fans of fingerstyle guitar and acoustic instrumental CDs. Technical yet simple. No overplaying. Every note counts and stands on its own.
Read more... - Dave Kurtiak ~ eMedia Music


Discography

"Skies and Openings" ~ November 2009

"What Falls Away" ~ October 2011

Copyright 2009 Vin Downes ~ BMI

Photos

Bio

Downes began studying guitar at the age of eleven. His early interests were in electric guitar, but this changed when he heard the music of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke. He was immediately intrigued with the art of fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Downes went on to earn a degree in classical guitar performance and music education from William Paterson University. Along the way, he has studied classical composition, Indian tabla, and American roots music, while developing a love for jazz and all improvised music. 

As well as being a composer and solo artist, Vin Downes is a freelance guitarist who works in Classical, Jazz, Theater, and Popular music settings. He has also been an award winning music educator for the last fifteen years.

Vin Downes' music has have received:

~ Outstanding Achievement Award from The Great American Song Contest.

~ 9/10 rating for excellent guitar performance, composition & arrangement by International Acoustic Music Awards

~ Soundtrack placement in Season 7 of PBS' Roadtrip Nation TV series.