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In the Jukebox: Trevor Hall

A review of Hall's latest: from Hilton Head to L.A. and beyond

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Trevor Hall
Trevor Hall
(Vanguard)

Trevor Hall, a South Carolina native, has come a long way in his 22 years. Growing up around music, he had his sights set on making a life out of it from an early age. That he is now six albums deep should say something about his passion for creating tunes.

On his latest self-titled work, Hall mixes his easy-going guitar-driven reggae, burly voice, and lyrics infused with a message of freedom and transcendence. Hall views the two years of high school he spent at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, a school east of Los Angeles, as life-changing. This influence is apparent on these 13 tracks and in Hall's persona, now a far-out West Coaster who, sometime in the recent past, wandered into a Buddhist monastery and developed an interest in the esotericism of the Far East.

The slightly psychedelic echoes and sitar of "Internal Heights" introduce the album by inducing a sort of calm. Standout "Unity" seeks to bring the listener closer to God, or, here, "the sender." And the uplifting chorus of "Volume" sounds like early U2, invoking a mountainous landscape of guitars with the reverb turned up.

Hall cites Bob Marley as a major influence on his music, but these tracks are closer to Jack Johnson than Jamaica. "The Lime Tree" and "My Baba" fit the beachside vibe with a sparse guitar being slapped and plucked providing the rhythm. That Hall is a spiritual seeker shines through his music. He fancies himself a mystic, hoping to impart some wisdom on his listeners. Like his friend Matisyahu, most of Hall's lyrics concern our spiritual state of affairs, perhaps seeking to overwrite the damage even an hour of watching CNN might inflict.

You could call it mood music, something to play in the background, but that might be missing the point. Hall wants you to hear his words and that's where the album falls short. The lyrics reflect his convoluted religiosity. Throughout the album, Hall blends Christian rhetoric ("Surrender to the Most High"), Hindu mantras ("Hara Hara Mahadeva"), and Buddhist elements of impermanence and transcendence ("Maintain internal heights to see the transcendent being"). And even places them awkwardly next to each other ("From Jerusalem to the Holy Himalayas, from Mount Zion to the hills of Jamaica/All land is Holy, all land is sacred").

The end result isn't one of depth but superficiality as it becomes less clear exactly whose praises he is singing. And while the lyrics may resonate with some listeners, it may be difficult for others who are in a more mature position than Hall's universalism. So Hall has come a long way and even though he still seems to be doing some seeking, it's a safe bet he's got a long way to go. (trevorhallmusic.com

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