“Octobersong” is the debut solo album of Aaron Hendra, an Australian-born songwriter, singer and guitarist currently based in Dallas. I came across this artist purely by
happenstance. While tweeting with co-stars of Bravo TV’s up-coming “Real Housewives of Dallas” (premiering Monday April 11th, 2016), I discovered that cast member Tiffany Hendra was married to Aaron
and when I heard he had a solo album out I wanted to give it a listen. Without hesitation, I went to iTunes and purchased “Octobersong”.
In my traditional fashion, I sat down in my “man-cave”, put my iPhone in DND-mode and dimmed the lights so I could listen to the album start-to-finish with my undivided attention. Before I knew it, I had been taken on a delightful journey that ended way to soon. In other words, Aaron Hendra & his “Octobersong” did what relatively few can do, impress me enough that I immediately add them to my very short list of artists on my iPhone (a sacred place in which very few reside).
A Deeper Dive:
When I first started to write this review, I found myself describing in great detail the aspects of each and every song. I quickly realized I was being redundant due to so many awesome similarities in the songs. Therefore, I have tried to be a little more concise while still elaborating on the highlights. With that said….
Each song on this album truly holds it’s own. It’s very clear the objective when creating this album was to write/record a set of songs that each told a unique story yet collectively had a bigger message. And while that message may very listener-dependant, it structurally is based on the human condition. This album is very emotional, accurately drawing parallels to the ups & downs in life. What I especially love about this album is that I think everyone can relate to it in their own way. The lyrical phrases may or may not be a direct likeness to what you may be going through but the choice of words are so well suited that we can all see what we need to see.
A great example is in “One Man’s War”. The song starts with a two-acoustic guitar phrasing piece which immediately relaxes the listener. After a few bars the mood is slightly elevated when another guitar and bass very delicately find their way into the song. And just as you relax again, Aaron comes in singing “In this battlefield, God please be my guide”. This can apply to so many different situations and yet so purposefully the sound of his voice makes you feel like it will all be ok. The true magic moment in this song for me is when the Children of Shekinah Children’s Village are featured in the climax of the song singing “Lift your voice sing hallelujah”. The song stood it’s ground long before this part came in. But, when you hear those kids sing that phrase it matters not what your particular “war” is, they clearly send you the message that it will all be ok.
Aaron’s use of David Campbell, a master of the orchestra – conducting and arranging, and the LA Philharmonic are yet another example of how, in my mind, Aaron set out to create an album of great songs without a recipe, without boundaries and without sacrificing his objectives. Aaron obviously looked for, and got, whatever it took to make each song the best it could be.
Every word & every note of each song on this album is very specific. Each serving a purpose and ultimately serving the song and especially the listener. It’s not often an album contains so many attributes from the first note of the first song through the last note of the last song – “Octobersong” clearly does. The album personifies passion, meaning, definition, clarity and quite frankly does this all so well I just realized I’m on the 4th loop of the album. And that’s EXACTLY what I want an album to do.
I’m a sucker for dynamics, spatial characteristics, palatable instrumentation that enhances the phrasing and am overall a huge fan of musical exploration when it serves the song. This album is a great example of all of the above.
Aaron’s voice is quite unique, strong and sustainable in dynamic escapades and the engineers use of chosen gear only accentuates these attributes. What comes to mind is an AKG C-12 into an outboard Neve input module utilizing a Urei 1176LN peak limiter direct to the 2″. If you know audio, you’ll know what I mean and likely agree.
I’ve always said no one can harmonize with an artist like the artist him/her self. Other artists certainly enhance the movements but when the lead singer is passionately singing a song he believes in and also wrote, no one else can come close to truly capturing the moment and taking the listener on that special journey. That kind of performance can only come from the one most impacted/driven by the song. In this case, that is Aaron who once again stepped up to the plate for the grand slam.
I would be remiss if I didn’t state one of the best ways to know if a singer can actually sing is to listen for sections with little instrumentation and is dominated by the vocalist – especially when the engineer cuts way back on the reverb/echo type effects. Yep, you guessed it – Aaron passed this test with an A+.
Aaron’s guitar sounds couldn’t be more eloquently serving. There is a true art to getting that perfect guitar sound for each song and even each section within a song. This album delivers that from start to finish.
I also love a great sounding acoustic drum set and hats off to the engineer on this one too. Gigi sounds like he plays hard yet has a natural ability to temper his attacks in a very controlled yet natural manor. The kick drum is especially delightful and the engineers use of light limiting allowed the fancy dynamic footwork of Gigi to shine with great sophistication. And the symbols – impeccable. I would also liken the sound to the C-12’s for overhead L+R.
Let’s not leave out the the Bass Guitar – I absolutely LOVE the way the bass builds off the drums in transitions and creates its own pulses that collectively are genius! The bass guitar is usually underrated and quite frankly usually exists to provide some bottom end and normalcy. However, the bass can be so much more and on this album it illustrates just how sonically serving it is when done right.
My favorite song?
On this album, I have 11 favorite songs. If you want me to pick just one, I respectfully decline.
— John J. Simpson
Purchase “Octobersong” here via iTunes
All songs written by Aaron Hendra
Bass :: Paul Bushnell :: Marcus Brown :: Dorian Heartsong
Piano and keyboards :: Rami Jaffee :: Jamie Mahoberac :: Marcus Brown
Background vocals on ‘The Reason’ :: Matt Jones
Background vocals on ‘One Mans War’ :: Matt Jones :: Gigi Gonaway :: EG Daily
Pedal Steel :: Jay Leach
Live strings performed by (24 piece orchestra) members LA Philharmonic
Strings Recorded by Allen Sides at Cello Studios, Hollywood
Strings Arranged & conducted by David Campbell*
Percussion on ‘One Mans War’ by Brian Kilgore
Choir on ‘One Mans War’ :: Special thanks to the children of the World Mission Shekinah Fellowship orphanage in Nimule, Sudan and the children of the Buziga Hill Primary school, Kampala, Uganda.