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Time Travel Made Easy 

 Listening to A Soldier’s Journey by E.L. Kurtz, you might think the man fell directly though a hole in time to land in a recording studio. Through his music, you sense you are listening to someone who has raised a tankard in a smoky colonial tavern, marched with a firearm, and slept on the hard ground of a revolutionary battlefield. How did this modern man come to sound like a soldier balladeer from our country’s founding? Mostly by being one. A musician from an early age (got his first guitar at age 6), later he served in the 2nd Marine Division and was wounded while overseas. In 2002 Kurtz fell in love with colonial reenacting and has since slept on many of those very same Revolutionary battlefields as our founders did. In fact, Kurtz prefers to sleep out in the field before a performance, keeping it real.

All of this, along with his in-depth research of popular 18th century songs, his 1850’s era lute, and his soulful voice, create a musical portrait of Early America that in my experience is without match. When I listen I find myself wishing I could hear him play live by an evening campfire, which is something you could possibly do if you should be in Williamsburg or at the Yorktown reenactment when he is performing. Until such a time, I will have to make due listening to his recordings.

  The website at www.elkurtz.com says that the songs on A Soldier's Journey are a “collection of authentic 18th century songs, each masterfully selected, arranged and performed to weave the tale of a young 1700s musician who dreams of glory as a soldier during America's defining years.” This is one of only two failures the album possesses.  The album falls short is in its attempt to tell a fluid story, as any collection of songs not expressly written to do so always must. The other problem is the order of songs, which while chosen for previously mentioned story purposes, is slightly difficult on first listen. For instance, once you have jumped to your feet with the rhythm of The Escape of Old John Webb, you are not prepared for the tone of Katy Cruel or Greensleeves following. In past interviews Kurtz has said, “What I try to do is entertain the crowd and then ambush them with an education…I’ll give them the history behind the song and show people why these songs were popular.” I wish he had chosen to do this on the actual album rather than pursue the difficult goal of telling a story (Hey I didn’t really get The Who’s Tommy until I saw it on stage so it could just be me). I understand, however, that if you purchase the CD through the website you get pictures and a written story that fill in the narrative of the album. My copy was an electronic download so I missed out on these extras.

  For my personal wish list, on a future album I hope Kurtz will record a live performance in a tavern. Nothing would sound more appropriate than Kurtz’s music with a background of tankards being raised, wooden chairs shifting on wooden floors and the ambient noise of patriots discussing the politics of the day. I can almost smell the fire now.

I highly recommended this album for anyone who has an interest in Revolutionary War history, reenacting or just amazingly well crafted music.

To buy the CD or listen to a sample of EL Kurtz A Soldiers Journey go to    www.elkurtz.com




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