CD Reviews – February 2023

By: Jim Price

KEITH RANDALL – ASPIRE (no label) Almost a year after the release of his debut instrumental solo EP I Feel It Too, Williamsport native Keith Randall continues his exploration of musical frontiers on his first full-length album, Aspire. Picking up where its predecessor left off, Aspire finds Keith continuing to expand his creative musical horizons with a colorful set of instrumental tunes that merge various musical flavors. Keith blends various elements of international music, along with touches of jazz, folk, pop, rock, blues, soul and more. Keith and his wife, Sonya, also bring a few more instruments to the table to further develop the various flavors and themes of their music. Opening the album, the title track “Aspire” sets an uplifting melody and inspirational tone along a prominent beat, with Sonya peppering the number with flourishes of alto saxophone, violin and flute. Keith injects an upbeat and dance-friendly vibe into “Catching Feelings, Catching Fire,” establishing a salsa-geared rhythm. He explores his Greek musical roots on “Laïkó,” utilizing a bouzouki ordered in from Athens to generate the number’s Mediterranean flavor. Keith explores slow jazz horizons with “The Moonlight and You,” highlighted by Sonya’s smooth jazz sax work. A Mexican adventure inspires the tropical-edged “Riviera Nights,” while the Far East is imagined on “Silk,” spotlighting Sonya’s flute skills along a unique 7/8 time signature. “A Passion Unleashed” rides a driving and powerful rhythm, and Keith’s bouzouki returns to craft another Greek folk angle on the reminiscent album closer “The Last Sunset of Summer.” Keith’s strong composing skills, melodic sensibilities and wide variety of musical flavors makes Aspire interesting from start to end. The performances sound strong and inspired, and Keith and Sonya both display ample mastery on their various instrumentation. Composed, produced, mixed and mastered by Keith and recorded at School House Sound in Annville, this set sounds full, balanced and clear, with the instruments coming through distinctly in the mix. Keith Randall’s sense of musical exploration and adventure yields a compelling listen on Aspire, as he aspires to stretch his musical frontiers. (The album can be obtained through Keith’s website,, as well as through various online streaming and digital platforms.)

DUSTIN RAINEY – FOOLISH (no label) By day a musical instructor for the Ferndale Area School District, Dustin Rainey is a singer, songwriter and keyboardist who now fronts the Cambria County-based jazz, pop and rock band Wanderlost. Dustin showcases his songwriting, singing and arranging talents over the nine songs of his solo album, Foolish. Citing influences from Ben Folds Five to Billy Joel and Elton John, Dustin shows a clear knack for songcraft; creating distinct and catchy melodies, clever lyrics, and creative piano and keyboard arrangements that make each song pop and sparkle. From its gentle piano start, the album’s opening track “Fortune Teller” builds into an ode about the reassurances that some people seek when visiting such a soothsayer. A carryover song from Dustin’s previous band project Spoonchatter, the upbeat “Einstein” suggests that genius isn’t needed to have common sense. Led by a prominent low-end groove, the punchy “The Devil Just Drowns Them Out” spins a tale of temptation, while “Friends & Enemies” ponders honesty. Dustin presents hopeful numbers such as “Lost & Found,” about maneuvering through life’s journey, and the optimistic homeward-bound “Dorothy.” He also shares uplifting romantic ballads like “You Are the Best Thing” and the album-closer “Breathe,” and sings of determination during a relationship bump in the road on “Until You Let Me Go.” Dustin’s voice rings strong and clear with ample range, and his shining piano work drives each melody. His arrangements show variety from simple piano to full, fleshed-out and rhythmic passages, vocal layering and more. Recorded and produced by Dustin in his home studio, Foolish sounds bright, balanced and clean from start to end. Foolish provides a pleasant and uplifting listen, and provides a nice display of Dustin Rainey’s musical creativity and all-around talent. (The album can be accessed and obtained through and online music retailers and platforms.)