It seems hardly a month goes by without John or Gina Carey releasing a new single or album. So far this year, Gina has released three albums, Love Letters, Love Letters 2 and Live, Love and Laugh. John seems to be determined to keep up with the pace set by Gina, by releasing his second album of 2012. This is Family, which will be released on Gico Music. Family is the followup to Smooth, Soulful and Funky, which was released on St. Valentine’s Day. Now just nine months later, the self-styled Urban Soul Guitarist releases Family. On Family, John a multi-instrumentalist, plays bass, keyboards, drums, percussion and of course the instrument he made his name playing, guitar. He’s joined by the hardest working woman in music Gina Carey. She accompanies John on Family, adding her unique vocal sound on several of the tracks. Will Family see John Carey pick up where he left off on Smooth, Soulful and Funky? That’s what I’ll now tell you.
Family opens with the title-track Family, which has a sound that’s best described as smooth jazz, with a twist of soul from Gina. John’s chiming guitar weaves its way across the arrangement, with Gina’s vocal keeping it company. Her vocal is tender, vocal drifts in out of the arrangement, leaving just John’s crystalline guitar to take centre-stage. Soon, he’s into a jazzy groove, his fingers nimbly moving up and down the fretboard. It’s just John and his guitar, locked into a groove. They’re as one, the result of forty years of playing and practice. Before long, you realize just how talented and accomplished a guitarist is John Carey.
Mother’s Eyes sees John drop the tempo. His vocal is heartfelt, with a hint of vulnerability. It’s just John playing an acoustic guitar, with percussion and keyboards for company. They provide a subtle backdrop to what’s a quite beautiful song, with some of the best lyrics on the album. At the bridge, John ups the tempo, unleashing some peerless guitar playing. It adds to the emotion and beauty of a track that’s gotten single written all over it.
A moody melodramatic guitar solo opens What’s the Price of Fame before John’s deliberate, emotive vocal enters. His vocal is laden with drama and sadness, as tells the story of a cast of characters who’ve rubbed shoulders with, or sought fame. A searing, riffing guitar replies to his vocal. It’s dramatic sound adds to the emotion in his vocal. A combination of his vocal and sizzling, rocky guitar are accompanied by a backdrop of slow, hypnotic drums. They sit firmly in the background as John and his guitar take centre-stage. Together, they fuse drama, emotion and sadness over nine minutes where blues and rock unite.
After the blues-rock of What’s the Price of Fame, Daytime Nighttime there’s yet another change in style. Here, the Careys return to the Nu-Soul sound favored by Gina. John’s jazzy guitar, crunchy drums and keyboards combine with a vocal drenched in effects soars above the arrangement. From there, John and Gina’s vocals feed off each other, Their punchy vocals are accompanied by a backdrop of warm keyboards, drums, guitars and harmonies. This soulful track sees the Carey Family demonstrate their versatility as they return to a sound that’s served them well in the past.
One Wish sees John Carey return to the sound of Mother’s Eyes. It’s a track that benefits from an understated arrangement, allowing his vocal to shine. Just a picked guitar and keyboards combine to produce an emotive backdrop for John’s heartfelt vocal. Percussion punctuates the understated arrangement, as backdrop of keyboards, guitars and drums combine. John’s vocal takes centre-stage, as the emotion and passion combine. By allowing John’s tender vocal to take centre-stage, this allows us to hear just how talented a vocalist and songwriter he really is.
Closing Family is Wine and Cheese, another slice of smooth jazz, albeit one that’s set against a jaunty beat. Percussion, rhythm section and John’s chiming guitar combine with keyboards as the track meanders along. Bursts of percussion enliven the track, as a pounding bass adds variety. John’s playing is quick and accurate, flitting up and down the fretboard. While this is very different from previous tracks, given its much more mellow sound, it shows another side to John Carey and his music.
One thing you could never accuse John Carey of is being predictable. The six new songs on Family, see John flitting between smooth jazz, nu-soul, blues-rock and the soulful, troubadour of Mother’s Eyes and One Wish. To me, John is at his very best on the blues-rock of What’s the Price of Fame, plus the heartfelt, soulfulness of Mother’s Eyes and One Wish. On Family and Wine and Cheese, the two tracks that bookend Family, John reverts to smooth jazz. While smooth jazz is much-maligned musical genre, sometimes deservedly, it does allow John to showcase his guitar playing. It’s when he plays the guitar that John comes to life, locking into a groove, and loosing himself as he unleashes some jazzy licks. On Daytime Nighttime, there’s another change of style, with the Carey Family taking the album in the direction of Nu Soul. This demonstrates their versatility and how they’re never content to stand still. Something of a curveball is the bonus track, which is remix of I’m Into You, a track from John’s previous album Smooth, Soulful and Funky. This sees John Carey’s music moving in the direction of the dance-floor. Given the diversity and eclecticism of Family, the only problem this throws up, is how do we categorize John Carey’s music? Is his music jazz, soul, smooth jazz or a fusion of styles? Personally, I think Family is a fusion of musical genres, ranging from soul, blues-rock, jazz and smooth jazz from the multi-talented Carey Family. This seem quite fitting, given how versatile a musical Family John and Gina Carey are. They’re capable of straddling the musical genres seamlessly. Family, like John’s previous album Smooth, Soulful and Funky, is proof of this. Standout Tracks: Mother’s Eyes, What’s the Price of Fame and One Wish.