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Various artists (from the album Further On: The Songs of Billy Conway available as an independent release) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Billy Conway may not possess what one would otherwise consider to be a household name, but that doesn't negate his series of career accomplishments. A drummer for such rarified ensembles as Morphine, Treat Her Right, and the Twinemen, and singular songwriters Chris Smither, Jeffrey Foucault, and Kelly Joe Phelps, he possessed a distinctive style that made a marked impression. What was less apparent were his skills as a songwriter, a dormant talent that never came to full fruition.
That said, his subsequent solo album, Outside In, released the year before his death from liver cancer in December 2021, indicated there was an untapped talent waiting to be accorded wider recognition. Credit Conway’s wife Laurie Sargent, a skilled singer and songwriter in her own right, with collecting his unreleased compositions and giving them due attention. She assembled a group of musicians to give the material a proper release, culminating in an album that features many of those artists Conway had worked with in the past.
The results are consistently intriguing, running the gamut from the brassy flourish of “Love Ain’t Around “, (sung by Jeffrey Foucault, to the sensual sway of “Holding On” (featuring Jeremy Moses Curtis), the supple stride of “Quit Keeping Score” (with Jabe Beyer), the Bluesy desire evoked by “I Feel You Moving” (featuring Laurie Sargent), and the more reflective feel of “Trouble in Heaven” (sung by Hazel Foucault). Clearly, Conway was able to tap into a wide array of styles and genres, which, had he lived, might have allowed to transition into a reliable songwriter capable of cultivating a career in the realms of mass appeal.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be, but even so, Further On does offer a furtive glance at a certain skillset that never reached its proper culmination. Hearing Caitlin Candy sing the beguiling ballad “After All”, Chris Smither gives his vocals to the sturdy “If I Had a Dollar”, Jeffrey Foucault apply Gospel-like reverence to “High Road”, or Kris Delmhorst giving a sensitive read to “Once Is Enough”, becomes akin to a sad and sobering postscript, one that reflects the fact that Billy Conway’s career was cut short without having fulfilled its prime potential. Nevertheless, while appreciation in retrospect is appreciation delayed, it’s still recognition regardless. In that regard, Further On: The Songs of Billy Conway pays tribute with a proper perspective. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Further On: The Songs of Billy Conway from Bandcamp
For more information head on over to The Songs of Billy Conway website
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