Reviews of "Looking for Love"

The album cover

David Royko, Bluegrass Unlimited
Paul Jacobs, Fiddler Magazine
Stephen Ide, Patriot-Ledger, Quincy, Massacusetts
Gregg Benson, WELY, Ely, Minnesota

David Royko, Bluegrass Unlimited, February 1997

"Smooth" can be a damning adjective in bluegrass, so when I saw Pete Wernick's blurb on the back of WayStation's CD, which says the group should "…appeal to listeners who like their bluegrass on the progressive side, smoothly presented, with thoughtful and creative touches," I wasn't sure how well that boded for the contents, or at least for my reaction to them.

But I have reacted with something approaching joy, because WayStation is smooth in that they are extremely polished and rehearsed, but still pack emotion and a bundle of excitement.

From the opening track, "Hard Hard Choices", the exhilaration factor is high, with Rich Stillman's breathless banjo bolting from the ensemble like a horse from a burning barn, while Karen Lincoln's poised lead vocal glides atop the instrumental eruption. Not only here, but through the entire program, instruments spin in and out of the various cycles that these (mainly original) tunes set in motion, keeping one waiting to hear what they will come up with next.

The usual single note unison and harmony passages that one has come to expect from progressive bluegrass are present, and it is all expertly executed. However, what is delightful is how WayStation uses more standard devices in novel but musical ways. For example, in the second verse of Kate Wolf's "Like A River", the fiddle delivers some sizzling accompaniment to the vocal, but its impact is increased by the dramatic manner in which it bursts mid-verse onto the scene. Also, on the slower and sultry "The Nightbird's Song", one of the disc's highlights, a brief bass solo is inserted to further darken an already mysterious aura, making it an organic part of the tune, instead of just "giving the bass player some".

Most of the tunes (11 of 14, two instrumentals) are originals, with subjects that include California forest fires, old-time speakeasies, love (of course), and weddings headed for divorces. In other words, that breath of fresh air extends to the range of subject matter, and the fact that, with the possible exception of Harley Allen's "High Sierras", these are new and unfamiliar songs to most of us. Whether there are any latent classics lurking I can't say, but as a body, they are entertaining.

Every time I hear a CD like this, I am reminded of just how many talented but obscure players exist out there, waiting to be discovered. So, get this disc and discover Stillman, a fine banjoist; Lincoln, a guitarist and terrific singer, with a pure, accurate voice; bassist Dimitri Eleftherakis, who has a jazzer's mind and a 'grasser's drive; chief songwriter, fiddler and guitarist Peter Anick; and mandolinist Ed Kingsley. They make a formidable team, and I hope "Looking for Love" is only their first of many victories.

Back to top of page
Back to the WayStation home page

Paul Jacobs, Fiddler Magazine, March 1997

Known as the birthplace of poet Jack Kerouac, Lowell, Massachusetts also has the distinction of spawning the talented quintet WayStation. On the group's CD Looking for Love, the listener is treated to fourteen songs -- eleven original tunes and three by the likes of Rick Lang, Kate Wolf, and Harley Allen.

Playing in the band is Peter Anick on fiddle and guitar (known to you readers for his contributions to Fiddler Magazine), Karen Lincoln on guitar, Dimitri Eleftherakis on bass, Ed Kingsley on mandolin, and Rich Stillman on banjo. The vocals are shared by all five players, with Karen Lincoln handling most lead vocal chores. They have produced a program featuring twelve vocal numbers and two instrumentals. With bluegrass instrumentation, the band evokes swing on "Wasn't That a Wedding", country blues on "The Night Bird's Song", bluegrass gospel with "Paradise Express", and modern folk during "Hard Hard Choices". The singing and playing is strong and precise throughout.

While fiddler Peter Anick contributes eight vocal numbers, his fiddling really shines on instrumentals "Liz's Agony" by mandolinist Ed Kingsley and on "Five by Five", written by banjo player Rich Stillman. Anick's fiddle also drives on Kate Wolf's "Like a River", as well as on his own song "All Downhill From Here." Besides his tasteful fiddling, Peter contributes some nice lead guitar breaks on various cuts of this release.

Looking for Love should be a hit with the progressive bluegrass crowd, as well as with fans of the singer-songwriter genre. Where bluegrass is heading in the twenty-first century is anybody's guess -- looks like WayStation will be one of the stops.

Back to top of page
Back to the WayStation home page

Stephen Ide, Patriot-Ledger, Sept. 27, 1996

Several Massachusetts bands, both new and old, have new releases that are keeping the bluegrass tradition alive.

WayStation, based in Wilmington, finds a happy mix between neo-traditional bluegrass and folk music. On ``Looking For Love'' (Lakes Recordings, (508) 657-5042), this quintet plays originals and covers in a highly polished debut, produced with Bob Dick (Front Range).

WayStation, comprising Peter Anick, Karen Lincoln, Dimitri Eleftherakis, Ed Kingsley and Rich Stillman, applies the drive of bluegrass in several songs, including Kate Wolf's song about nature, ``Like A River,'' and in Anick's ``Hard Hard Choices,'' in which someone's heart is torn between two lovers.

Lincoln's fine lead vocals stand out, as does Eleftherakis' bass singing in the bluegrass gospel of ``Paradise Express.'' ``Cathedral In The Pines,'' a truly New England song about freshly fallen snow as a metaphor, showcases fine harmonies.

The group works beautifully as an ensemble. Anick's nimble fiddling is tasteful, Kingsley's mandolin playing reveals Eastern European tones in ``Liz's Agony'' and Stillman's banjo takes on evocative leads in Rick Lang's ``The Nightbird's Song'' and in the fast instrumental bluegrass of ``Five By Five.''

Some songs reflect urban life, like love and chaos in ``Once I Get You On My Mind,'' or the rollicking blues of ``Wasn't That A Wedding,'' in which wedding guests bet the marriage won't last. Others, like Kingsley's ``Grandpa's Applejack'' have a traditional sound, while ``Looking For Love'' is in line with contemporary folk.

Back to top of page
Back to the WayStation home page

Gregg Benson, WELY, Ely, Minnesota

Right from the get-go on "Looking For Love", you will find out this recording has some spark. Opening the 14 cuts is "Hard Hard Choices" which puts the everlasting vocals of Karen Lincoln into the spotlight, and she never looks back.

The WayStation spell has been cast with the 'swampy' sounding "Nightbird's Song" on the second track. The Boston-based band then goes on to show the versatility of their 5 voiced ensemble, with an original gospel number "Paradise Express". At this point you know you're listening to a band with the ability to change and adapt their music to keep things from getting stale. No wonder this group won the 1994 Northeast Regional Pizza Hut International Bluegrass Showdown, sending them on the road to Owensboro, Kentucky for the finals.

The Kate Wolf-penned " Like a River" really deserves the best of show on this release, being driven along by Rich Stillman's banjo and Karen's vocals.

Around about this time one has turned up the volume, sat back and decided to let WayStation do the rest, and they deliver. Tight harmonies packed in with great instrumentation makes "Looking for Love" climb to the top of the pile of cds sitting on the coffee table.

Everyone in the band gets to show their stuff, either being a writer, a singer, or just a plain good picker. Fiddle player Peter Anick wrote 8 of the songs making this a very original release.

I disagree with the closing song title "It's All Downhill From Here". for this group it's all uphill. If you're "Looking for Love" and a taste of fresh music, you found it here.

Back to top of page
Back to the WayStation home page