Mix Tape Review: Bill Isles’s “The Shores of My Hometown”

Chris Godsey visits Bill Isles's "The Shores of My Home Town" and finds Isle's affectionate detail pleasant. Some of the playing on the disk is more than pleasant . . .


Nothing new happens here, but neither does anything offensively unskillful or poorly conceived. It’s straight-ahead acoustic folk that aims for poetry, occasionally dips into lyrical and vocal treacle, and will most definitely appeal to people who dig such stuff.

Its song titles–“Headin’ North,” “At the Cabin,” “My Minnesota Home”–suggest that it’ll especially appeal to people with sentimental ties to this state.

Its lyrics don’t leave much to the imagination–like these from “The Cabin”: “In summer we going swimmin’ / in the winter strap our snowshoes on / in spring the leaves are buddin’ / by late October they’re nearly gone / but the fire’s always cracklin’ / and the air is sweet and clean / the flora and fauna and the cedar and sauna / you know what I mean”–but that’s part of why they’re so comforting to Isles’s audience.

The instrumental “The Prince and the Pauper” is very cool–sounds like any number of pleasing old-fashioned fiddle tunes.

And the song “Radio” quite nicely conveys the feeling of its subject matter. “Well the big advantage of an acoustic guitar / is that you can play it no matter you are / high upon a mountain at 10,000 feet / or all snowed in a bed sittin’ next to me / when the kids were little they’d put on a show / homegrown entertainment, that’s the best, you know / besides there’s not much playin’ on the radio.”

April Verch’s fiddle and Ted Heinonen’s mandolin are consistently pleasing elements–they add substance to songs that otherwise might wind up a bit saccharine.