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JEFF CALLAHAN: Press

Layered aromas of love and madness are followed by flavors of sin, bliss and addiction filling the whole palate with haunting, surrealistic poetry and jazz fusion.

Genre: Spoken Word: With Music
Release Date: 2009

Bringing poetry to life, "Empty Swings," creatively composed by Jeff Callahan brilliantly blends spoken word with Jazz Fusion. Each track features Callahan verbalizing life and nature with a voice that is soft and gentle. Callahan paints pictures with lyrics like "...wildly rummaging through button-down clouds and in pot bellied raindrops smothering the haunted beating of your nightstand clock" on the track "Sweet Dreams Earth."

Even though the album is focused around the spoken poems, the instrumental background deserves credit as the cast of musicians deftly perform with emotive tonality. For instance, listen as the sweet and tender electric piano and soulful saxophone cascade around the poetic words on “Slide, Slide, Slide.”

Conclusion: "Empty Swings" gives a listener great imagery with its poetic words and is complemented by wonderful music making it an album well worth having.
Jef Peace - EvO:R (Jul 20, 2010)
Original Text: Der aus New Jersey stammende Sänger, Songwriter und Dichter JEFF CALLAHAN hat seine neue Veröffentlichung "Empty Swings" einem noblem Zweck gewidmet. Die CD, die eine Kombination aus gelesener Lyrik und Werken des Jazz-Komponisten B.D. Lenz bietet und ihre Verkäufe unterstützen die Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Diese landesweit arbeitende Institution aus Amerika hat sich dem Kampf gegen den Krebs besonders bei Kindern verschrieben. JEFF CALLAHAN war das Anliegen genug, um seine durch die Veröffentlichung von zwei Alben, "Havens, Haunts And Hollows" (2000) und "Woebegone" (2004) erlangte Popularität zu nutzen und diesen Kampf zu unterstützen. CALLAHANs Gedichte sind irgendwo in der englischen Moderne anzusiedeln, Lyrik also, die besonders durch ihre Experimente mit freier Form besticht und sich auf sehr direkt Art und Weise mit Emotionen und Erfahrungen auseinandersetzt. Der Fokus von "Empty Swings" liegt auf den Themen Liebe, Wahnsinn, Sünde und Vergebung, die auf angenehm anschmiegsamen Jazz treffen und passend unterstrichen werden. Besonders der warme Sound des Saxophons oder die breite Akkorde des Pianos erzeugen ein besonderes Umfeld für die Dichtung CALLAHANs. Ziel des Albums ist es vordergründig, 25.000 US-Dollar für die Krebs-Forschung zu generieren. Die tiefgründige Lyrik und der feine Jazz sind also der laute Aufschrei und der Paukenschlag, nur eben einmal anders.

Rating: 7.5/10

English Translation: Originally from New Jersey, singer-songwriter and poet Jeff Callahan has dedicated his new release, Empty Swings, to a very noble cause. The CD, which is a combination of studied poetry and the works of jazz composer B.D. Lenz, will raise awareness and funding for Alex's Lemonade Stand, a U.S. national institution committed to the fight against cancer, particularly in children. Having previously released two other CDs, Havens, Haunts and Hollows (2000) and Woebegone (2004), Callahan is passionate enough about this cause to donate all the proceeds from Empty Swings in an attempt to raise a generous $25,000 for cancer research. Callahan’s poems fall somewhere in the realm of modernist English poetry, which is especially evident in his experimentation with free form and strong focus on human emotions and experiences. Empty Swings is a unique blend of smooth jazz melodies and evocative lyrics with themes of love, madness, sin and addiction. The warm sounds of the saxophone and broad range of chords on the piano create a special background for Callahan’s style of poetry.
- Music-Scan.DE (May 12, 2010)
Jeff Callahan is a talented poet. That fact cannot be denied. However, based on what his audience gets with Empty Swings, I’m not sure the same can be said of Callahan’s musicality.

Empty Swings is a spoken word album, so rather than hearing Callahan sing his poems as lyrics, the listener gets Callahan reciting his poems as poems.

This in itself is by no means a bad thing. However, the music that accompanies the spoken word throws off the entire album.

On Empty Swings, Callahan’s poems are backed by the music of B.D. Lenz. Just as Callahan is a gifted poet, Lenz is a skilled musician. The problem is that the work of the two artists doesn’t mesh very well.

Taken individually, the spoken and instrumental aspects of Empty Swings are both pretty good. Callahan’s words are beautiful, thought provoking, and full of descriptive imagery, while Lenz’s music is well-performed jazz. Unfortunately, the music doesn’t fit with the words.

With the exception of a couple of songs, Callahan’s words and Lenz’s music just feel mismatched. The upbeat jazz doesn’t seem at all well placed with the fairly deep, sentimental lyrics—one has to wonder why Callahan chose that particular music to back his poems.

The incongruity between the words and music makes it confusing to listen to Empty Swings. Since the two aspects of the album don’t sync up, the listener has to choose to focus on either the words or the music, which shouldn’t happen on an album—especially when the music stands out more than the lyrics on an album that’s centered on the words.

Overall, Empty Swings isn’t terrible. A little disappointing at first, but it gets better the more it’s listened to, largely because it gets easier to reconcile the words and the music.

Hot Tracks: Sweet Dreams Earth, Garden of Your Spring, A Sigh and a Shrug
Bringing poetry to life, "Empty Swings," creatively composed by Jeff Callahan brilliantly blends spoken word with Jazz Fusion. Each track features Callahan verbalizing life and nature with a voice that is soft and gentle. Callahan paints pictures with lyrics like "...wildly rummaging through button-down clouds and in pot bellied raindrops smothering the haunted beating of your nightstand clock" on the track "Sweet Dreams Earth." Even though the album is focused around the spoken poems, the instrumental background deserves credit as the cast of musicians deftly perform with emotive tonality. For instance, listen as the sweet and tender electric piano and soulful saxophone cascade around the poetic words on “Slide, Slide, Slide.” "Empty Swings" gives a listener great imagery with its poetic words and is complemented by wonderful music making it an album well worth having.
Matt M. - Radio Indy (Jan 26, 2009)
SURREALIST NJ POET INSPIRED TO RAISE $25,000 FOR CHILDHOOD CANCER RESEARCH

Jeff Callahan, a New Jersey based singer-songwriter and poet, will donate all proceeds from the sale of his new CD, Empty Swings, to the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a unique foundation that evolved from a young cancer patient's front yard lemonade stand to a nationwide fundraising movement to find a cure for childhood cancer. Empty Swings is a haunting collection of sixteen surrealistic poems, recited by Callahan and singer-songwriter Kathy Phillips and accompanied by the musical compositions of jazz fusion guitarist B.D. Lenz. Influenced by writers like William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and T.S. Eliot, Callahan employs the techniques of surrealist poetry, like automatism, to explore themes such as love, madness, sin, bliss and addiction.

Callahan has previously released two other CDs, Woebegone (2004) and Havens, Haunts and Hollows (2000). Due to a solid mixture of folk and rock with some departures to other styles, Woebegone was well received by college and AAA radio upon its debut with such songs as Courting Delirium, Apple Blossoms and Miss Strange Soul. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee under the direction of Steve Haggard of Wild Oats Records, Havens, Haunts and Hollows has a spare touch, a thoughtful lyric quality and that dark gothic edge that's found in classic American folk music. Highlights include songs like Two Hundred Miles, as Callahan sings of journeying back to love, and Central Avenue Lullaby, the sad and evocative goodbye of a father to his daughter when her mother returns to take her to a new home far away.

Empty Swings was engineered by Dave Edwards and includes performances by Lenz (guitar), Edwards (upright bass), James Rosocha (electric bass), Geoff Mattoon (saxophone), Tom Cottone (drums), Joe Mekler (percussion) and Daniel Mintseris (piano).
- New Music Weekly (Dec 19, 2010)
Jeff Callahan is a singer songwriter from New Jersey, USA. Together with a big group of musicians, he recorded his second CD Woebegone after four years of heavy touring. He plays the acoustic guitar himself while other instruments such as violin, drums, flutes and other electric and, more or less, traditional instruments are played by the many guest musicians. To make it complete, he also has Kathy Phillips doing the female second vocals, a strong addition to Callahan's own, nice voice.

I'm very surprised that this is a private pressing as the music could easily be issued on any major folk interested label . . . a good sound, positive atmosphere and strong compositions. Often the music has a light Celtic sound with a bit of Americana thrown in, but mostly it's straight and honest rock songs with a good traditional touch.

Woebegone is a pleasure to listen to. Somehow, it makes me think back to the music of the Scottish band Runrig, although it's not the music that makes me write this but the fresh and open atmosphere which inspires me to draw this comparison. If you like an easy to listen to, friendly CD with a good mixture of folk and rock with some sideways to other styles, then this might be exactly what you are looking for.
You have to take notice of an album described as "Celtic/gothic folk" and after spinning Jeff Callahan's debut album Havens, Haunts & Hollows, I can tell you I'm glad I did. Jeff, a New Jersey singer songwriter joined by other talented musicians, takes folk and Celtic elements, along with his own lyrics and voice, and creates an album of ten tracks that will have you humming and toe-tapping along. His talents really shine in such tracks as "Two Hundred Miles," as he sings of journeying back to love, and in "Central Avenue Lullaby," the sad and haunting goodbye of a father to his daughter when her mother comes to take her away to a new home far away. The strongest thing in the album is Jeff's use of words and voice, and how he merges them with fiddle, guitar and other instruments. They complement each other well and make for great listening. This is a definite for folk and Celtic lovers.
Jeff Callahan's debut CD will have you searching the liner notes for source material, since most of the songs sound like Appalachian folk tunes resurrected off old Folkways records. They're not. Callahan has merely tapped into that emotionally raw sound that's the hallmark of America's most rooted of roots music. His songs have a spare touch, a thoughtful lyric quality, and that dark gothic edge that's found in classic American folk
music.
Wayne Thorpe - The Star-Gazette (Nov 30, 2000)
Originally from the south, Jeff Callahan, a talented singer-songwriter and poet, now calls New Jersey his home and WNTI is proud to have him as one of our own.
Staff Writer - WNTI 91.9 FM (Aug 2, 2004)
Distinctive New Jersey singer-songwriter Jeff Callahan returns for his second appearance on Homegrown Music with his lyrically fascinating songs. His CD from last year Woebegone continues to receive positive reviews. He is joined by jazz-rock fusion guitarist extraordinaire BD Lenz in a two acoustic guitar configuration.