Personnel: Mary Lattimore (harp); Paul Cartwright (violin); Maxwell Sterling (double bass); Sebastian "Seb" Rochford (drums); Danny Frankel, Varun Kataria, Jamie Morrison (percussion); Chiara Giovando, Kristina Train, Kristy Campbell (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Andrew Bush.
Recording information: Grandma's Warehouse, Echo Park, California; Red Barn Recorders, High Desert, California; Wilson Ranch, Joshua Tree, California.
Photographer: Sarah Haywood.
On his third solo album and first in eight years, singer/songwriter M. Craft makes a strong case for the designations singer/composer and wilderness-conjurer. The Australia native relocated to Los Angeles from a decade-long stay in London, England to begin work on the record, eventually retreating to a desert cabin in Joshua Tree. Once there, he sculpted atmospheric, orchestral song from longer piano compositions conceived in L.A. Described as a "cosmic piano odyssey," Blood Moon's title was inspired by Craft's witnessing two such lunar events during his stay. Barren landscapes, starry skies, and solitude seep through the full melancholy set of these borderline tone poems -- three of the ten tracks are instrumentals. Alternately expansive and sparse, the title track drifts through passages of layered strings, guitar, sustained piano chords, percussion, what sounds like pan flute, and harmonized male and wailing female vocals, at times exposing Craft's scene-setting verse ("All the mountains we climb/And the valleys of time/Waiting for a moon"), and persistently underscored by a repeated note on piano. The more shimmering "Me and My Shadow" has overlapping, disparate rhythms delivered by twinkling piano and various stringed and percussion instruments, blended to be indistinguishable from one another, like spattering rain. The song's key is established by more prominent, harmonized strings and another wistful vocal line. Eventually, tempos and a sense of center are garbled as additional vocal and instrumental tracks interrupt and merge into the proceedings ("Searching forever for where we belong/Me and my shadow"). Panoramic and transportive throughout, each track takes time to observe and consider, ultimately finding comfort among desolation. The closing track, "Love Is All," decides on companionship: "In the light of the morning, it all comes so clear/Either I should be there or you should be here." With its emphasis on exploring atmosphere over the artful, structured pop of his prior releases, Blood Moon stands alone in Craft's discography to date. Recommended for late-night introspection whether under shelter or, even better, lying out under the stars. ~ Marcy Donelson