A voyage that never ends sees intrepid American explorer get somewhat lost on familiar terrain.
Leading his records all over the place in geographical terms has always been Scott Jeffers’ modus operandi, yet while most of his ensemble’s efforts highlight intercultural links and, thus, project integrity, “Onward Journey” seems to dissipate in terms of style, zigzagging from the valleys of Éire to Eastern deserts via the steppes of Europe. Although it doesn’t mean the album’s songs fail to work on their own – they do, very much so – the overall impression is that the pieces on display are out-takes from this platter’s predecessors, because there’s something incongruous to the melodic flow.
Such a stumble will become apparent from the very beginning, once the relentlessly cheerful swirl of the tripartite “Cork Town Medley” switches to the unhurriedly dramatic pace of “Istanbul” whose filigree and groove are nigh on infectious without actually getting there, despite the otherworldliness of Scott’s violin, before “Hana Sweet Hana” dowses the flame in its stately, piano-led grace. Yet whereas the frisky “Dead Sea Song” and “Zivatar Után” feel superficial, “Cliffs Of Moher” is profound in its dynamic sway, and “Modaraj Romani” takes on orchestral scope, the number’s acoustic veneer almost cracking under its emotional weight until electric surges elevate this gypsy dance to the skies.
Still, “Towards Eternity” slowly ties all the scattered strands into an arresting, mesmeric sonic panorama, and “Inistioge” makes a full spiritual circle, linking the listener back to the album’s Celtic beginning, only with rock tropes added to the mix. As a result, here’s a detour in Jeffers’ onward journey – a way for his band to recharge their batteries and enjoy the ride.