from The Beat (Indiana), Sept. 1997

written by Tom Lounges, Editor

Once every blue moon an album shows up in your stereo that illuminates the room with its sonic brilliance. An album which moves effortlessly from track to track as your ears eagerly drink up its every note and chord. In short, by the time the last note fades from the speakers, it has secured a place on your "desert island" list. Those albums seem almost spiritual, with an enveloping sense of warmth that transcends every song. They are the albums which become benchmarks in an artist's career, albums which live on long after they are gone from this earth.

Birthday by Ralph Covert is one of those albums. This sparse and simple set of lullabies, fairytales and story-songs is a collection that is built upon kinetic love.

As friends dropped by to "jam" on his birthday, Covert rolled spools of magnetic tape to immortalize the moment. The casualness of those sessions and the tight personal bond of the players who'd visit, play a few tunes and then move on are what makes this album so magical. In the two years since, Covert has sifted through the many songs captured that day in his basement. In between more "serious" recording efforts and tours, he eventually found a baker's dozen which belonged together. Those songs are here.

With a special kind of love shared only by a daddy and his tiny princess, Covert has dedicated this CD to his daughter, Fiona, whose wide-eyed photo graces the cover. This is a musical heirloom, a gift generously given to a father by musical compadres dear to him and then passed along to his child. This is an album that cannot be dissected and analyzed, nor would this writer ever be so bold as to attempt such a feat. Each song in this inspired set is like a silky smooth strain of a spider's web, each merging gently and gingerly, resulting in a work of wonderment and beauty.

Covert strums his acoustic guitar and croons about such whimsical things as raspberry jam, angel wings and dreams. Others join in on piano, mandolin, bass, violin and assorted other warm and earthy instruments. Production is kept to a bare minimal, allowing the songs to retain the rawness and simplicity that make them so charming. The soulfulness of the vocals can be haunting. Covert sometimes sings in high lonesome tones to affect that effect. Other songs are conveyed in warm and spirited warbling.

As a songwriter, Covert touched this writer's heart once before. His ode to a dying friend, "Adam McCarthy," led me to first seek out and discover his work. The creative promise of that heart-rendering early piece is finally fulfilled on Birthday. His strong work with the Bad Examples notwithstanding, Covert has never shined so brightly as he does with this release. As I mentioned earlier, this is a benchmark album, a desert island disc.

Kudos to this hometown artist for creating a wonderful record that will touch many hearts for many years.

(Rating: 10)