Craig Bickhardt - The More I Wonder
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The More I Wonder (Stone Barn, 2014)

Craig Bickhardt

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

It's a fairly good bet that if Craig Bickhardt were to bank on his credentials, he'd likely be much better known by now. As it is, even after the success he's achieved by having his songs covered by Reba McEntire, Nicolette Larson, Steve Wariner, Kathy Mattea and The Judds, his image remains that of a sensitive singer/songwriter solely concerned with the head and the heart. Still, that's a crowded field. Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot or Art Garfunkel provide quick comparisons in lieu of greater familiarity.

That being the case, building a career as a romantic balladeer isn't the sort of move that's likely to stir things up or provide the kind of image that hype, hyperbole and a horde of scantily-clad dancers allegedly guarantees. In Bickhardt's case, acoustic guitars and minimal arrangements are all it takes to force a closer listen, and also ensure an emotional connection that's pure of purpose and emotionally affecting. Happily then, Bickhardt's "The More I Wonder" more than makes that case. Songs such as "Crazy Nightingale," "The Restless Kind," "Stan" and "Young Hearts, Wild Horses on the Wind" relate a series of profoundly intimate experiences, all bittersweet ballads that defy any possibility of maintaining a dry eye.

Sadly, there aren't many avenues left for those who specialize in heart-spun narratives and sublime serenades of this sort. As a matter of fact, Bickhardt could be considered a bit of a throwback in a retro sort of way. And while that distinction might not necessarily elevate him to the top of the marquee, it's at least worthy of bringing him some modicum of appreciation. Fingers crossed, of course, but here's hoping "The More I Wonder" can help make that possibility all too apparent.

CDs by Craig Bickhardt

The More I Wonder, 2014

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