Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guy Forsyth - Balance Embraced

I intended to start this entry with an apology to Guy Forsyth. After hearing his new album and catching his CD release show last Saturday, I thought about what I wrote last year.  I felt I had viewed his show through harsh, shallow eyes and had missed the point entirely.  Upon reflection, that isn't true.  What I saw and wrote last year was exactly what I saw and felt.  But as Guy says in his new song, "Balance is a process of constant correction." And that's exactly right.  Guy walks a not so fine line between a vaudevillian caricature and seriously talented musician.  On Saturday night, he hadn't left his love of vaudeville wardrobes behind, but the balance between the act and the talent was clean.

This month Guy released his first studio album in seven years. The Freedom to Fail is Guy's acoustic roots rock at its finest, with plenty of the experimental sounds for which he is famous.  It's opener, Red Dirt, has almost gospel like harmonies. The Hard Way name checks the likes of Tom Waits and Bob Marley.  Econoline is an old Guy Forsyth staple reworked for this album.  Both are driving rock anthems. Sink 'Em Low puts you on a chain gang. Old Time Man is shades of bluegrass. Thank You For My HandsCan't Stop Dancing and Home to Me are new and interesting. Balance is profound, written by Guy and the record's producer, Matthew Smith. 

All that said, my favorite songs on this album are his collaborations with Brian Keane. Brian is a solidly talented, country-oriented performer; his songwriting is clean and often witty.  The Things That Matter is a beautiful ballad written when Brian and Guy happened to find themselves together as they received news of Steve Bruton's death a few years ago.  The newer Guy and Brian collaborations, It Should Have Been Raining (also written with Rachel Loy) and Played Again (also written with Wammo) take Guy's music and vocals into new territory - after a few listens I decided these two songs had an Elvis Costello vibe that I really like.

The CD release show opened with Guy, his harmonica, and 105, an oldie but goody.  Throughout the night he blended his oldies with selections from the new album.  The "saw" was back for Summertime.  I particularly enjoyed rediscovering Children of Jack.  His core band included Nina Singh on drums and Jeff Botta on bass. As the night progressed, he brought out Matthew Smith on guitar and assorted stringed instruments, his old Asylum Street Spanker alum Sick on the fiddle, and Adoniram Lipton on keys. 

Sitting in the front row and to the right side of the stage, my first easy views were of rhythm duo Nina and Jeff.  They were immensely entertaining to watch as they clearly felt free to cut loose with their craft. When Sick took the stage directly in front of me with his fiddle, I was irrevocably captivated.  Dressed as a vaudevillian bad boy, with a curled moustache and black eyes, he plied his fiddle in a maniacal fashion.  His villianous vibe eased with the shedding of first his coat, then his tie: ah so, it wasn't Spring-Heeled Jack come to steal my soul and virtue with his singing fiddle.  (Or was it? Neither have been seen since that night. Hmmm......)

Front and center was Guy, with those incrediby talented hands and his unbelievably versatile and facile vocals. Yes, watching him perform is still like watching a lost episode of Carnivale. But that's okay.   You see, these days Guy has found a balance of poetry and costuming, singing and acting, symbolism and sincerity.  And it's a beautiful thing for the listener.



Children of Jack

Charlie Mars - I Bet I'm Not The First Girl to Try Not To Think of Him

A little over a year ago, I discussed Charlie Mars in this blog. I sincerely enjoyed his music but found myself disdainful of his demographic and their starry-eyed worship.  Well, he came out with a new album in August, Blackberry Light, and I absolutely love it.  It's full of the sweet sentiment that I eschew daily, but so help me God, I'm caught, well and truly. 

Throughout the album, the rhythms are catchy and complex.  His songwriting is profound: I'm in awe of the many relationship facets he's managed to canvas.  The instrumentation is beautiful.  Charlie's voice is smooth and relaxing. The problem is this: Charlie is all breathy vocals. In fact, the entire album makes me feel as if he's standing right behind me which both hands on my shoulder. He's moved my hair to one side and he's whispering these lyrics into my ear. And I sway....

I caught him live at The Belmont the week after I downloaded the album.  While the opening act, Griffin House, was onstage, I snuck to the back to peruse the merchandise. As it happened, Charlie made his way to the table as I stood there. I took the chance to pick up a hard copy of Blackberry Light and get it signed before the throngs of women figured out he was there and began their attempts at meaningful eye contact. It was easy to tell him I loved Blackberry Light and not stare at his carefully dishevled hair.

When Charlie's turn came later, he was skilled and professional. He covered all the highlights from his previous works and the best of the new album.  My demographic represented, just as I knew they would.  Hayes Carll and his wife were standing a few feet away and I was immensely amused at the quizzical expression that never left Hayes' brow.  The beer was ice cold, the outdoor stage was September-In-Austin-Steamy and the music was firing on all 4. I let myself slip into the groove, cloaked in the near anonymity of the dark crowd.  Tell me something: why is it so easy for men to get such beautifully defined triceps?

You know, sometimes I'm just a silly girl. And no, that's not a CougarBeat Poster on my wall.

The first single on the new album. Oh, yes, love this one:

"I shouldn't have smoked so much weed, I shouldn't have done so much blow...." well, who hasn't been there?

"I bet I'm not the first boy to try not think of you...." This song is worth it for that lyric alone.