Visiting Estonia strikes a deep chord for all of us, even more so when one was born abroad due to circumstance. For Peter Loite time spent in Estonia has provided chord progressions. The songsmith’s CD “Ancient Road,” recorded in 1999 and early 2000 in Tallinn has to rank high on any list of professional recordings from members of the diaspora. Its creation came from no small part thanks to inspiration and input from Estonian musicians when Loite first visited the ancestral homeland.
Loite has been back since, and the interaction, two-way flow of musical co-operation continues. During this summer’s Rooster Rock jam session at KJ Pete found time to hand me a copy of Rough Jewel’s “Spiritman,” saying merely “you may be interested in this.”
I was, and am impressed, once again. Rough Jewel’s musical facets are provided by Loite on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, adding occasional frissons from his harmonica, Estonia’s Mait Seger is also on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, plus drums. Tom Karik holds the line on bass guitar, Rod Goertz is on organ and Rhonda Crawley rounds out the ensemble’s fine sound with back vocals, shakers and tambourine. The disc was recorded by Loite at Moon River Studios in Bala, not far from KJ, in 2008 and 2009 and was produced by Loite and Crawley.
Of the nine cuts Loite is the sole author of five tunes, and his styling and arranging has no doubt rubbed off on the other selections. The album opens with Seger’s rousing “Coming Down.” Seger also teamed with Karik to write the bluesy “Good Ole Heart.” Two Goertz compositions complete the disc.
The title track shows Loite at his lyrical and musical peak. Indeed, Rough Jewel’s tunes are all carefully crafted. Introspective, gentler compositions dominate, with folk-tinged rockers like “Tiger Girl” generating energy and up-beat mood. The guitar work, in particular, is key to seamless tempo changes.
However, as with “Ancient Road” it is with the ballad that Loite puts his personal stamp on the CD. “Made to Rise” is inspirational, encouraging and most importantly convincing. Avoiding maudlin sentimentality while expressing deep-felt emotions is a challenge that the songwriter conquers here very well.
Goertz’ contributions stand out as well. “Jesus” avoids slipping into any claptrap while asking some pretty basic questions. “Nobody’s Fault” is a philosophical and appropriately written number that serves well as the album’s final cut. The gentle harp notes are icing on the cake.
The CD is evidence of the work of mature, talented musicians, underscored by impeccable production work. While I have to date only enjoyed Rough Jewel’s creations cocooned in a car – about the only place these days to have any kind of interruption-free time to enjoy an entire album from beginning to end – be advised that Rough Jewel is appearing live at Tartu College on Friday, November 13th. The time of their gig is still TBA, but as an appetizer consider making your way out to Scarborough: Rough Jewel is also taking the stage as part of The Baltic Pub Night, which starts at 7 PM on Saturday, November 7th at The Olde Stone Cottage, 3750 Kingston Road. It is a safe bet to assume that Loite et al will have copies of “Spiritman” to sell at both performances, so that you, too, can enjoy their tunes at your own convenience in your conveyance of choice.
Loite’s muse travels with confidence on ancient and spiritual roads, from Eesti to Muskoka and, no doubt, paths yet to be revealed. These ears appreciate being able to share in the musical experiences gleaned on that journey.
Spiritman rises and soars