Vin Downes presents his own unique brand of acoustic guitar finger picking on When The Sea Lets Go. If you are guitar fan of any flavor or pace there is something to enjoy on this recording.
In my estimation being a talented musician is a god given gift that needs to be shared. And how lucky are we as music fans to be receiving that gift every day. Well, that is if we choose to accept it daily. I certainly do and being one of the more fortunate souls to have an abundance of it at my disposal, and quite a variety no less.
So, where am I going with this? It is artists like Vin Downes that can illustrate the simplicities and complexities of one acoustic instrument in one track. He does it consistently throughout except for “Dust and Drag” where he is accompanied by the sound of Michael Manring’s bass. You know it is him as soon as you hear it. And then there is “Streets of Sunday” where Tom Eaton joins in on the piano.
It was kismet that Vin ended up having the production team of Ackerman and Eaton on his recording. The first time he heard the finger picking style on Ackerman’s Windham Hill Records Sampler (which I used to discover new artists on all the time), he put down the electric guitar. We all benefited from that decision. After hearing When The Sea Lets Go it is quite likely you will agree.
This is scenic and deeply relaxing music that has a rhythmic flow and tone. It is a solid and consistently strong release that puts the spotlight not only on the creator but the style of guitar playing he presents. Vin Downes is a fine representative of this genre of music and style. He has so much respect from the music community and his peers that will be performing at the 2017 ZMR Music Award Concert in New Orleans on May 13th. This is a well-deserved honor and validation of his talent and presence he now commands in the recording industry.
Listening to When The Sea Lets Go is all the proof you will need however the accolades and honors will most certainly keep coming for an innovative and technically astute musician such as Vin Downes. This album is one example of many that you will hear in the years to come and I am willing to bet they all will be progressively different.
Vin Downes: Press
when the sea lets go
Waves Like Thoughts...
I was in the perfect place and time to listen to when the sea lets go by the remarkable guitarist Vin Downes. I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the Island of Hawaii where I know there is magic being born every day just like the lava that flows from Kilauea. Downes is the master of contemporary guitar music and his ten tracks offer up nascent beauty that defines the genre. Although each track features a different theme, the body of work is cohesive in the sense that the tracks segue seamlessly into a story that is as fluid and as vast as the subject. There are no briny ditties here, just a flow of pensive and placid compositions that open the pores of the mind and allow freestyle dreaming to take place. I loved every track.
All the tracks and titles are in lower case letters. The first cut is entwined and lost. It is a passionate overture, one that invites the listener to prepare for an extraordinary journey of the soul. But be warned, this foray is not without its tribulations. There will be sadness. There will be confusion. But there will also be joy.
The next track is called evening in berkley and it is my favorite of the ten. There is a something tenuous, yet introspective hidden in the melody. It is perhaps a wonderful memory that keeps you going, but it is never very clear at what point it became reality.
I was just treated to a spectacular sunrise and of course, morning red was playing. Never was music more appropriate to this Hawaiian dawn as the sky burned with copper, red and yellow. The green line of foliage against the mauve morning sky was a miracle unto itself. It turned out to be a pretty good day.
Another favorite on when the sea lets go is called dust and drag. This one of the few instrumentals featuring another player and it this case it is legendary bassist Michael Manring that infuses a sculptural bass accompaniment that adds body and soul into the fray.
I thought that just before you go would have been a pleading, but not so. It was a gentle reminder that I was actually on the road in my concept of paradise. I tried to commit the landscape to memory, knowing I might not come back any time soon. The peace and serenity of Vin’s tune connected perfectly with my tranquil mood. It reminded me that we are just mortal, but emotions are gifts not to be taken lightly.
As I listened to the title tune, as the sea lets go, I was driving along the Kona coast. The music made me pause. I parked and walked along the old pier to commiserate with the waves, if even from a distance. How many secrets are hidden among the waves? How many journeys have taken place, whether by choice or circumstances over this vast distance of water? What new worlds can be found across these salty plains of ocean even today? This tune was clearly another favorite on the album and I played it endlessly.
The mid-tempo ballad the right words are simple was a remarkable tune. The flowing melody brought smiles to my face and heart as the music echoed a sense of heartease, a word I do not use lightly. Things are right with the world if only a bit of risk is taken. All we need do is try.
Emotion and creativity meet like graceful ships on a friendly ocean on Vin Downes’ when the sea lets go. Downes finely tuned guitar work combined with his passion for perfection make this an incredible recording that is as timeless as it is thoughtful. His collection of highly refined tracks are enjoyable any time or any place, but they all share a unique sense of the introspective voyage. I give this a rating I have never given before, that of Most Excellent, for it is one of the finest works I have ever heard.
~ R. J. Lannan
Vin Downes is one of the finest guitarists who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my 40 year career as a producer. A brilliant player, Vin’s compositions are captivating and instantly memorable. Even more importantly to me, his pieces are emotionally evocative and connect on a very deep level with us as listeners. In encountering his latest recording, When The Sea Lets Go (a recording I co-produced with Tom Eaton), you will be listening to one of the great talents in today’s already rich guitar community.
Will Ackerman - Grammy Award Winning Producer
Journeyscapes Radio Reviews When the Sea Lets Go
Guitarist Vin Downes’ latest release, titled When the Sea Lets Go, was recorded at Imaginary Road Studios in beautiful Vermont. Produced by guitarist and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, along with multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Tom Eaton, the album is comprised of ten lovely acoustic compositions recorded on steel-string guitar, which overall convey the signature essence of classic Windham Hill recordings by the likes of Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges and Alex de Grassi.
“Entwined and Lost” is a gentle opener that paints a scenic landscape of solitude, as it likewise conveys a comfortingly warm and down-to-earth feel. Vin’s guitar-playing style is at once detailed and intricate, yet perfectly understated and overall low-key, as he imparts a smoothly flowing and velvety touch throughout the compositions. The third track, “Morning Red”, is a comparatively brighter and quicker-paced tune that gently uplifts the spirits, as it brings to mind that of peering out on a terrace while an early sunshine pours through the colorful leaves of towering trees. On the fourth track, “Dust and Drag”, Michael Manring’s bass guitar enters at about the halfway mark, as it seemingly forms a dancing pair with Vin’s guitar for a few moments before exiting the stage. The fifth track, “Everything Ahead”, is one of the most upbeat compositions on the album, imparting subtle overtones of Americana. It’s easy to imagine driving into the sunset while listening to this seemingly carefree yet contemplative piece, letting go of all stresses and worries. The title-piece and seventh track, “When the Sea Lets Go”, is one of the most melodically beautiful and emotive compositions on the album, in which an atmosphere of evening is conveyed, perhaps while standing alone by the seashore. A hint of sunlight peers through on the lovely eighth track, “Streets of Sunday”, in which a delicate piano melody courtesy of Tom Eaton enters towards the end of the piece in just the perfect timing, as it gently drifts and twirls around the centerpiece. A few of the album’s song titles especially leave one with the intriguing impression of wondering what their story might be, as they seem to have captured a brief but lingering moment in time. Among these are the fifth and ninth tracks, respectively titled “Just Before You Leave” and “The Right Words are Simple”, as well as the lulling final piece, “All You Left Behind”.
A most comforting album of solitude and reflection, When the Sea Lets Go is one of the loveliest acoustic guitar recordings that I’ve heard recently, as well as a particularly suitable companion for reading, writing, reflection and remembrance. Vin Downes possesses a supremely beautiful guitar-playing style that boasts constant fluidity and subtle intricacy, as he creates a warmly intimate, personal and enveloping soundscape throughout. A fantastic album that is rather simple without a grand display of bells and whistles, Vin has decidedly taken a less-is-more approach here, which in this case works to absolute perfection! ~Candice Michelle
Serge Kozlovsky reviews When the Sea Lets Go
These very simple at first look and at the same time strong guitar chords capture the listener’s heart from the first seconds. The music of Vin Downes is very thoughtful and sincere. It penetrates into the deep corners of your soul and arouses most sweet memories. This music releases hidden emotions and washes your heart with warm Summer rain.
The meditative guitar of Vin Downes gently leads you and gives you a perspective to see the world as it exists, and to feel all its beauty. And you can, also, easily sense the beauty of your own heart.
The guitar playing of Vin Downes has several very important features. It is filled with inner freedom. And this music wakes up your mind and excites a very wide range of emotions. All compositions of the gifted artist are full of life and they gently push you to start your personal travel to the unknown. Who knows what will happen with you on the path, but you definitely won’t be the same after this gripping journey…
I’d like to add only a few about the album “When the Sea Lets Go”. Vin Downes is a brilliant guitarist and his musical messages have amazing clearness and purity.
The album “When the Sea Lets Go” was produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton and the sound design of this project is beyond praise. You can easily listen to each simple note. You are able to perceive the thinnest nuances of the diverse guitar of Vin Downes, who is really a superb artist.
I am sure the newest release of Vin Downes will be one of the brightest events of the new year. Listen to this refined music and just look inside. You’ll see where the beauty of this world is hidden. Now is the time to feel it, now is the very right moment to return this beauty back to our world. It needs your actions…
Kathy Parsons at Mainly Piano reviews When the Sea Lets Go.
When the Sea Lets Go is the fourth album from guitarist/composer Vin Downes. Eight of the ten tracks are solo acoustic guitar; one features Tom Eaton on piano, and one features Michael Manring on bass. This is the second of Downes’ albums that has been produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios; Eaton also recorded, mixed, and mastered the album. Downes’ hypnotic music gently soothes and relaxes with the peaceful ebb and flow of ocean waves. Nuance and subtlety are very much a part of his playing style, proving once again that “less is more.” His masterful guitar playing and composing come from the heart and express far more than words can ever say.
Downes began studying the guitar at the age of eleven, later earning a degree in classical guitar performance and music education from William Paterson University. While in college, he studied classical composition and had several of his compositions performed by soloists and ensembles. Downes has recorded and performed with a variety of musicians and is a public school teacher in New Jersey, teaching classical guitar at Bayonne High School.
When the Sea Lets Go begins with “Entwined and Lost,” an enchanting piece that is wistful and dreamy while demonstrating the exquisite beauty of solo acoustic guitar and Vin Downes’ soulful playing. “Evening in Berkeley” continues in quiet tones, describing a peaceful, blissful side of Berkeley I don’t think I’ve ever experienced (but would like to!). “Morning Red” ups the tempo a bit, expressing the anticipation and promise of a new day. “Dust and Drag” features legendary bassist Michael Manring, who adds his own special magic to this lovely piece. “Just Before You Go” is a favorite. Warm, melodic, and more than a little poignant, the emotions expressed are honest and heartfelt. “Everything Ahead” is a bit livelier, conveying a sense of optimism for the future. The title track is another favorite. Smooth and graceful, it reminds me of the mesmerizing effect of watching a sunset over a calm ocean. “Streets of Sunday” is mostly solo guitar, but Tom Eaton adds some piano near the end. Lazy and contented, it’s a reminder of what Sundays should feel like! “All You Left Behind” brings the album to a close, expressing deep emotion that really touches the heart. Beautifully melancholy and very sincere, this is my favorite piece on the album.
When the Sea Lets Go is outstanding from the first note to the last. If you like solo acoustic guitar, this album is an absolute must! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
CD Review – Unlike the Stars, by Vin Downes
Acoustic guitarist Vin Downes' third album is up for Best New Age Album in the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, and deservedly so.This is one of the best acoustic guitar albums out there; it flows beautifully from beginning to end, with nary a dud on the track list.
This is a testament to Downes' craftsmanship as a composer and his skill as a guitarist. Every chord and note is rapturous, and the sound is lush and luxurious thanks to the studio acumen of producer Will Ackerman and recording engineer Tom Eaton.
Grammy winner Ackerman contributes additional guitar to one track, with other guest turns throughout by bass impressario Tony Levin, cellist Eugene Friesen, and flutist David Watson. Friesen's cello and Watson's flutes blend very nicely with Downes' guitar, by the way.
This is more than just a great guitar record – this is great music, period.
Acoustic guitarist Vin Downes’ third release is his first collaboration with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios. Unlike the Stars will beguile the listener with its graceful, warm melodies and breezy accessibility. Downes possesses superb technique and artistic chops galore, but he doesn’t flaunt it. The music has an outdoorsy feel to it, and the CD would be a great traveling-down-country-highways disc: It has enough impetus and energy to blend with passing scenery but not so much drama to become intrusive to a pleasant, meandering mood while searching for adventure on the open road.
Here is a review of "Unlike the Stars" from One World Radio's Steve Sheppard.
Here is the link to Bill Binkelman's review of "Unlike the Stars" for the Zone Music Reporter.
It happened! A new bright star has lit up the sky of the new age and acoustic music genre. The transparent and multi-dimensional guitar tunes of Vin Downes touch the soul from the very first chords, and one wants to soar with these very emotional and impressive compositions.
You feel as if your entire room is filled with divine sounds of Vin Downes’ guitar. It speaks with you, it finds the response in the depths of your soul. The guitar of the artist has its own very expressive voice. And at the same time incredible easiness is felt in the music of Vin Downes.
“Unlike the Stars” was produced by Grammy Award winner Will Ackerman and co-produced, recorded and mixed by Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios. Brilliant performers Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, Eugene Friesen, Tony Levin and David Watson joined Vin Downes on this album. Their instrumental parts help elegantly to emphasize the distinct style of the skilfull guitarist.
What more can I say? My review comes to its end and I have to put a dot, but after that I’ll be listening to this amazing album one more and one more time…
Here is a link to Michael Diamond's review of "Unlike the Stars" for the Zone Music Reporter.
"Vin Downes has crafted a beautifully organic album with his latest offering, "Unlike The Stars". Every track is masterfully composed and resonates positively on its own -- sometimes introspective, sometimes outgoing, yet always articulately performed. This album is so very tasteful and musically refreshing that listeners will instantly recognize it as a 'new' classic."
Astreaux World Radio / Promotions
Click the link below to read Kathy Parsons review of "unlike the stars" for www.MainlyPiano.com
Click the link below for Michael Diamond's review of "unlike the stars" on his website Music and Media Focus.
Click the link below to read Keith Hannaleck's review of "unlike the stars" at New Age Music Reviews.
"What Falls Away" CD Review ~
I loved this CD from the second I put it on. It is nine tracks of beautiful acoustic guitar music – all instrumental, all wonderful. I asked my daughter what she thought: "I like it," she said.
I asked my wife, who said, "It's great. Much better than that stuff you had on before." Basically, Vin Downes has made a winner. I think of it as great studying music, or the perfect music for settling down in the evening with a book. Each track is warm, mellow, and almost...friendly.
"What Falls Away" ~ CD Review
Short on length at only a bit more than 32 minutes, Vin Downes’ latest solo CD, "What Falls Away" nonetheless brings an enjoyable listening experience throughout its 9 tracks. Downes is a good fingerpicker, with a solid understanding of what makes a good song good. He keeps us anchored to the melody while exploring the aural dimensions that multiple fingers allow up and down the fretboard. We don’t get any modern techniques like two-handed tapping, just straight ahead fingerstyle guitar. The title cut "What Falls Away" is played on nylon string, a gentle dance that suggests what falls away may still have life. Maybe the most challenging piece on this CD is the contrapuntal "Under Sail and Star," with a deft mix of chord and sliding melodies. The longest cut is "Longfield and Cattails." Moving through the familiar A-B form, Downes calls and answers in various ways while returning us to the center of the melody. "Seeing Through" has some shades of early Chris Proctor playing and writing, a fine lyrical piece. The final cut "Running Fences" has some qualities of a rag, but breaks out of that style as the treble line undulates from phrase to phrase. While Downes won’t blow anyone away with mind-altering playing like a Tommy Emmanuel or Laurence Juber, "What Falls Away" is simply a CD of fine acoustic guitar music.
What Falls Away ~
What Falls Away, the sophomore release from Vin Downes, is a personal and intimate recording. Listeners will hear maturity in Downes’ composition. Opening up even more from his previous release Skies and Openings, the pieces create an aural landscape and take the listener on a trip through each of the nine tracks. Each composition possesses its own unique imagery and tone. You ride along with melodies as simple and majestic as clouds rolling by in the sky forming works of art. Downes’ fingerstyle technique shines throughout. His playing is natural and never forced. Sparse, yet exact, production showcases the guitar and artist behind it.
The overall tone of the release is very upbeat; like remembering a fond memory and smiling about it. "Gathering Miles" and "Seeing Through" are prime examples of this quality. "Departures" and "What Falls Away" are melancholy at times but also leave the listener in a higher place. Other tracks, like "Under Sail and Star", transport you on a melodic journey. "Longfield and Cattail" provides the proof of Leo Kottke’s influence on Downes, who lists Kottke as well as Michael Hedges as inspiration. With What Falls Away, Downes shows that he has moved onto the innovation phase of his playing and composing from a place closer to his heart. The final track, "Running Fences", has child-like whimsy and closes the CD perfectly.
Skies and Openings: Vin Downes
CD Review by Tim Little ~ Michigan Bluegrass Newsletter Association
Let me start this CD review with a question. "If you had to plan for an important meeting tomorrow morning and needed some musical background which could enhance both your ability to focus and your ability to relax at will, to what would you listen? "
I suspect that it would not be much of the music one encounters when surfing the FM dial these days. Contemporary pop music that comes out of the speakers seems too often to be generated by sharping and flatting singers warbling barely decipherable melodies...Not the stuff of music calculated to either enhance or to smooth the brain of the man on the street. .
Enter the dramatically different instrumental world of Mr.Vin Downes. His new album entitled Skies and Openings slid into my auditory canals as a most pleasant surprise. Vin is a multi instrumentalist (guitar/ banjo/ ukulele) backed up on this album by highly talented musical co-conspirators on bass, drums, and violin.
While the songs on the album are distinctly softer than the brash stuff that dominates today's airwaves, make no mistake. Vin's material is neither simple-minded easy listening nor boring elevator music. I discovered that I could listen to and absorb this fascinating album in at least two distinct ways.
 At one level Vin's compositions serve as the perfect complement to considered thought. Cramming for a final or preparing for a job interview would be a lot easier with Vin and company holding down the anxiety level and soothing the soul.
 Conversely, during a "study break" from topical concentration, one is strongly attracted to focus upon the superlative instrumental skills displayed by the Mr. Downes. It comes as a welcome relief from much of the daily guitar thrashing on air to discover what sounds can be teased out of the wood that goes into a fine acoustic guitar. After listening to many an over-produced album, it is also certainly refreshing to actually hear the very real sound of fingers sliding from fret to fret in the mix.
Of the songs on the album, my two favorites are
So She Spins: A winsome laid back instrumental waltz that sent me into the realms of introspection.
Pen City Rag: Reminds me of some of Ry Cooder's material on the soundtrack of the movie The Long Riders. Real roots music.
The album cover art is just that: art. Three shots of Vin with his guitar, a sunset shot with the song list superimposed, and a montage of the recording team in the studio. Simple design, but it fits well with the spareness of the music it encapsulates.
So visit vindownes.com, drop a little coin, throw a log on the fire and relax to Skies and Openings.
Timothy H. Little
1991 Rutgers Circle
East Lansing, Michigan 48823
Vin Downes is a fine musician with a degree in classical guitar performance. "Skies and Openings" is his debut CD, produced by Downes and Anthony Saint James, and it has already received national recognition. Vin cites Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke as influences. Echos of both can be clearly heard, in addition to shades of Alex Degrassi.
This is a well-produced recording of eleven tracks, seven solo and four with bass and drums. They evoke various styles and moods, from pensive and meditative to rag and movin'-down-the-road grooves. Downes plays mostly in non-standard tunings, displaying a mastery of the finger-style guitar.
All of the tracks on this CD are strong, but a few stand out. The first track, "Skies and Openings," opens the ears with a well articulated and well harmonized melody that has a Celtic flavor. "Words Over Us" takes us through different tonal colors, underpinned by bright flowing movement. "Climb" is a thought-provoking theme played against a deliberate "one foot in front of the other" rhythm.
"So She Spins" won an award in the Great American Song Contest. This elegant and graceful waltz is a duet with violinist Jeffrey Young. "Kian's Blues" is rich, full and open with unpredictable dissonant intervals that show Vin's love of jazz. The playfulness of "Pen City Rag" then brings us back to earth. "Sachem Road Goodbye," another rag-influenced composition played flawlessly on the ukulele, provides a short and sweet finale that leaves the listener conjuring images of lively dancers, ready to take on whatever comes next.
That could well be listening to Vin Downes again. I expect we will be hearing more from this accomplished guitarist and composer.
Like many other fingerstyle players, Vin Downes holds a degree in classical performance but found his own musical trajectory changed by hearing the music of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke. "Skies and Openings" is Downes' debut CD, seven solo performances and four tracks augmented by musical friends on bass, drums and violin. The title track is a melodic ode-to-joy reminiscent of Phil Keaggy's soaring style of composition and mood. "Climb" is a slow jackhammer groove but at intervals morphs into something balmier -- a giddying revolving door of emotion. On the face of it, "Mudshine" is a clawhammer blues, but there is just something a little different going on -- again, brief modal interludes are tossed in here and there to surprise. "Skies and Openings" is a truly impressive debut by an independent artist. © Alan Fark
On Skies and Openings, what Vin Downes will open is your eyes and ears to the talent of this New Jersey-based fingerstyle guitarist. His debut recording features eleven original songs influenced by Americana, Blues, Classical, Folk and Jazz...