A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz
Rob Skane is a singer-songwriter from Albany, New York and his first self-released CD "Nowheresville" is typical of his live shows. The moniker "Rob Skane and his guitar" is very apt. Ten of the listed tracks are Rob and his acoustic guitar; the eleventh track is Rob and his electric guitar. Only twice does any other instrument appear: a bass guitar on Talk without Lying and Leather Jacket with a Bullethole.
Skane's musical influences are prominently displayed in the liner notes. "Sister Ramone" is dedicated to Patti Smith and her late husband Fred "Sonic" Smith and "extra special rock and roll all night and party every day thanks" are extended to the members of Kiss. Skane is a much harder rocker than your run-of-the-mill folkie, so it is surprising that his first release is so acoustically strumming-based.
This sparseness of the album is characteristic of the theme pervading Nowheresville. Mixed Up Memory is about the ending of a relationship:
|"I don't want to be another page inside your scrap book, |
I don't want to be another Polaroid that you took,
and, I don't want to be another one of your mixed up memories."
The excellent song In My Room appears twice on the album: once as an acoustic number with local-fave Tina Ward singing back-up and again as a full-band send-up as a hidden bonus track. The contrast between these two versions illustrates the power that bringing a full band to Rob's sparse production gives to his music. It's too bad that more of the album couldn't have been like that. The full-band version makes an obvious choice as a single for radio play and is quite reminiscent of Material Issue. Skane occasionally appears on stage with the outrageous Troy-based band, the Lawn Sausages. Couldn't he have bought them a few beers each and have them appear on some tracks?
On the downside, Nowheresville suffers from poor sound quality--the vocals are not clear and are often dominated by the guitar. Rob's vocals have the same nasalness as Elvis Costello's and improved sound on the album would help provide the songs with much more impact. The dull recording diminishes the power in the delivery of songs like What is Love? that have a large dynamic range. What is Love? is musically and thematically similar to the Black Crowes' song, She Talks to Angels. The muddied production and the lack of printed lyrics in the CD booklet force you to listen closely to the songs. When you do, the listener is likely to be pretty impressed, but one's initial reaction might be to disregard Nowheresville, considering the amount of effort required to feel the vibe about the songs.
In summary, if you can get beyond the sparseness of the production and the sound problems, Nowheresville is a real treat in songwriting and performance. This is an acoustic album following in the footsteps of the New York punk-rock movement in the late 70s and early 80s---more CBGBs than Folk City.
Edited by Michele Scherneck