Empty Time Album Review

Solo artist, Chris Lister proves to be quite a surprise with his debut release, Empty Time.  The stunning eight-track album is a piece to remember with a handful of surprises around every corner. Acoustic tones blend with expressive melodies, as it quickly proves to be a must have for those who enjoy the Singer-Songwriter genre.  For those who enjoy the works of musicians such as Jack Johnson and David Gray, Chris Lister is on his way to becoming the same caliber as those seasoned artists who have just been mentioned.  Are you ready to give this record a listen?

Opening the record is the upbeat and quirky track titled “Stung by a Stingray.”  One element that stands out at first and foremost, is Lister's vocals.  Providing a smooth and straight to the point sound, this is one of the key elements throughout Empty Time.  Clocking in at a little under 7 minutes, this manages to be a great opening to the record.

Taking the tone of the record down a bit is the title track, Empty Time, which brings out the sultry side of this phenomenal collection of songs.  Lister's vocals are subtly raspy as they evoke such emotion that the listener can feel within every lyric.  Gentle acoustic guitars blend with quiet electrics as this dreamy ballad takes you on a journey.

Up next is the poppy and danceable “Blocking Gaps,” which is quite a lovely little departure from the rest of the album. Bringing in a slight pop-punk element, but not overdoing it by any means (which is a good thing!), this fun song on the record is one you will want to be blaring in your car stereo over and over again.

“The Fixer,” takes the record down another musical road that isn't quite as cohesive with the rest of the tracks.  An interesting song for that matter, the use of synths that slightly mimic an old Rhodes piano are used to create and whimsical effect that is a departure from the straightforward guitar based pieces on Empty Time.

“No Money No Honey,” brings the record back on track as it is laced with a tinge of Blues, with gently picked guitar solos, and Lister's voice taking on the duty of a seasoned Soul man.  The tune is one that will surely grab your attention.  “With You,” takes the album up a notch with a blend of brightly strummed acoustic guitars as Lister's voice goes up and down throughout the piece, slightly changing his vocal range.

“Island Life,” is a gorgeous track that proved to be a personal favorite on Empty Time, immediately. Lister's voice is spot on in the piece, as it is surrounded by softly strummed acoustics that create such a beautiful tone throughout.  Slight mandolin sounding instruments also help bring the song to life.

Closing out the album is the intriguing track, “Drifting.” Sonically enhanced vocals come together with   quiet, yet noticeable, backing harmonies that help surround the instruments of the track.  This is a charming way to close out the record, although it does stray away from the main musical aspects of the rest. 

Empty Time is a wonderful album that bares the very soul of Chris Lister.  His knack for writing a great folk laced song, is near perfection. Eager fans will be on the edge of their seats to hear what Lister has to offer next.  Empty Time is a stunning piece that will not only intrigue you, but will hold your attention for years, and listens, to come.

Artist: Chris Lister 

Album: Empty Time

Review by Melissa Nastasi

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)


Different Points of View Single Review

The scintillating and contemplative guitar stylings of UK-born, vocalist and guitarist, Chris Lister, are joined by vocalist, Stella Schiavo, on the acoustic gem, “Different Points Of View.”  As a songwriter, producer, and singer, Chris understands the folk, pop, and alternative musical renderings indicative of a classy and mature composition rich with relaxing textures and subtle melodies with sparkling harmonies.

“Different Points Of View” opens with a few titillating solo acoustic guitar strokes that ambulate with such grace and style.  Stella Schiavo’s smoky vocals begin and alternate between Chris’ heartfelt yearnings.  Both of the vocals coalesce during the chorus. However, the acoustic guitar is a mainstay throughout the entire song.  There are no additional instruments.  The vocals are slightly earthy, but folk-laden all the way.  

This is a distinctive North American folk concoction—seemingly from the 1960s or 70s.  Yet, there is a contemporary vein throughout. The achingly-beautiful vocals and spacious guitar styling’s represent a contemplative element that is unsurpassed by similar artists. The guitar ends as quasi-aimlessly as it begins, but that is not a negative attribute.

Chris Lister and Stella Schiavo are a winning team of musicians that know how to evoke moving melodies, lyrics, and guitar arrangements.  The lack of additional instrumentation is not a deleterious result.  The plaintive guitar tune is still engaging and reflective.  The sauntering guitar melodies are spacious and punctuated with vocals at different intervals.  The vocal deliveries and guitar arrangements are very similar to Australian Aboriginal guitarist and vocalist, Gurrumul Yunupingu.  However, “Different Points Of View” is sung in English and not an Aboriginal language.  

At any rate, fans of folk, alternative, world fusion, and pop will love the universal appeal and introspective authenticity of Chris Lister’s latest release with the help of Stella Schiavo.       

Artist:  Chris Lister (feat. Stella Schiavo)

Song:  “Different Points Of View”

Review by Matthew Forss

Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

Acoustic Sessions Album Review

With nothing but a single acoustic guitar and his own vocals, Chris Lister has stripped his new album, Acoustic Sessions, down to a bare bones listening experience.  This release is composed of a compilation of tracks from his previous albums which have been re-recorded and converted into purely acoustic songs for this collection.  Releasing an album that is entirely acoustic is risky business. On one hand, there is the potential of making the listening experience more intimate for listeners, but on the other hand artists run the risk of making an album boring with their lack of variation.  Luckily Lister has talent, which gave him the ability to successfully record an engaging acoustic album.

Lister sings of how vacationing can make you feel distant from daily life in "Island Life," the album's second track.  He keeps a steady melody on the guitar through the entire song as he describes how the beach has a way of washing worries away and making you feel so far away from "that distant rat race" of day to day routine.  Lister carries a hint of rasp and maturity in his voice, and the gruffness reaches its peak with "Over Me."  On paper this one may seem like a fairly simple song.  The lyrics consist of only one verse; the rest of the track is made up of repetitions of the chorus.  But you soon realize that this lyrical structure was chosen for a reason.

He has a way of bringing the words to life and he allows them to further resonate in you with every repetition.  Similar to this track, "No Money No Honey" also conveys an ending relationship. The story centers around a disappointing, yet often true statement: if you don't have enough money the women will eventually leave you for someone else.

Apart from "Island Life," Lister's songs do not generally contain spirited subject matter, "Through The Rain" is an exception.  Though the melody doesn't necessarily portray that, the lyrics certainly do.  Following along his same subject trend of love, relationships, women, and such, this one honors a flourishing relationship.  The line of the chorus, "through the rain I see you staring back at me," is used as a metaphor to acknowledge that she has and will continue to stick around through both the good times and the bad.

The final track, "Drifting," veers off the expected path, taking lyrics to a bare minimum, even more so than with "Over Me."  It consists of merely the repetition of the phrase, "Drifting. I keep drifting all my life with you."  The fact that he uses such minimal wording to portray such a profound idea is what gives the song its significance.

Relatively simple strumming patterns with little variation can be found throughout the album, but you have to keep in mind that these tracks were not composed as acoustic tracks to begin with. Had they not acoustic counterparts to their originals, more engaging guitar melodies would be needed in order to make the instrumentation as equally interesting as the lyrics.  But in that this was an album created in order to give his audience a taste of his live solo sets, Lister has accomplished what he set out to create.

He has produced an entirely raw acoustic album.  Since it was recorded in such limited takes, some minor flaws such as in cracks in the vocals can be heard, but that makes it sound all the more natural.  The intimacy of this album is obvious.  And the personal connection with these tracks will grow with each subsequent listen.  It would be interesting to hear each track's corresponding full band equivalents to award further comparison and depth to his work. 

Artist: Chris Lister Album: Acoustic Sessions

Review by Alec Cunningham

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)