P. O. Box 6605
Evanston, IL 60204
A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by R. A. B. Perch
Andrew Calhoun is a folksinger's folksinger. He's a storyteller in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, weaving narratives out of everyday happenings that are both funny and tragic, and always compelling. On Phoenix Envy, Calhoun's fifth release, he adds twenty-one engaging tales to his already impressive repertoire. With just an acoustic guitar, and a rich, distinctive voice he brings slice-of-life moments alive.
Phoenix Envy takes the listener on journey from laughter to tears, and all the stops in between. Jack and Jill is a dark tale of epic proportions about love, the devil, and redemption. This is no Mother Goose rhyme. Freedom Road is a cautionary tale. In it Calhoun sings about the current state of the world with its "Muck in the oceans, smoke in the skies," and how we're "gonna have to see what's wrong." It is also a song about hope, promising that "One of these days the sun's gonna rise...Bells are gonna ring..."
Calhoun creates vivid, believable characters, capturing their essence in a line or two. Sparrow is about a woman "...Bigger than the blues, Louder than the comics in the Sunday News". Another song, Sheila is like a Raymond Carver short story, capturing in fly-on-the-wall detail the frustration and anger of a couple whose marriage may end in violence.
Not all of Calhoun's songs are so dark. In Folksingers Are Boring Andrew playfully parodies the coffeehouse scene with its train-song singing, flabby-bunned, bass-run playing folksingers. In The Model Andrew turns his keen comic eye on the life of a model, painting a picture that is both funny and true.
Phoenix Envy is an understated, intimate CD. This scaled back production allows the listener to focus on the songs-the true stars of this CD.
On Phoenix Envy Calhoun offers the listener a collection of compelling songs with memorable characters who struggle to find their way in the world. Their paths are rarely easy, and are full of frustration and disappointment, but they don't give up. It is this willingness to continue that makes Calhoun's songs both believable and inspiring. So set that tattered paperback book aside, and curl up with Andrew Calhoun's "Phoenix Envy" instead.
Edited by Kerry Dexter