Somewhere Near Paterson
Signature Sounds Recording Company
A review written for the Folk & Alliance Music Exchange
Somewhere near Paterson, Shindell's fourth solo album is a great return to form. Shindell launched his career with the hard-to-beat debut Sparrow's Point, that included songs like Are You Happy Now, Castaway, The Kenworth Of My Dreams, and On A Sea To Fleur-De-Lis. His subsequent CDs were plagued by overproduction. Although his songwriting has always been top-notch (e.g., Joan Baez covered three of his songs), I was always using the skip button on his second and third release.
What is it that makes Shindell such a great songwriter? He tells insightful stories, but his lyrics seem to come from deep personal experiences. Add a sweet voice, a strong sense of melody, and a singing style reminscent of praying in a Buddhist temple, and you have a very enjoyable singer-songwriter. Insightful and enjoyable, that's what art should be.
His opening song Confession is a kind of answer to Are You Happy Now. The chorus talks about pills and refills that makes a person happy.
|The one is too much reading |
The other too much pain
Now I'm happy
All through the song, however, the patient talking to his doc is saying that he is not happy and that he can never be happy with all the pretty blue pills. The song ends: "Sometimes I cry - I don't know why." We know why, we just wonder why he cries only sometimes and not all day long. This is the only song in this CD that is not totally acoustic---the electric guitar provides a strong feeling of dementia.
In the highly tensioned Abuelita, we encounter a grandmother that is looking in the crowd for her grandchildren that she has not seen since her son disappeared. She is musing about what she will say when she meets them, a meeting that we know will never happen:
|That Soledad was your mother's name |
She fell in Love with my Juan Luis
They may be gone
But I am still your abuelita.
This may be the story of a grandmother in Argentina, Bosnia, or the United States, of a child that is adopted, and the search for each other. Shindell explains that this song is about Chile, but it seems to be more open to interpretation than his own one.
From song to song, Somewhere Near Paterson, gives us short stories a la Raymond Carver, pieces of life that illustrate a rich inner world and behind them an artist sensitive to the injustices of the streets. This CD is a real winner. It is a pleasure to listen to with many songs that are bound to become classics and be covered by many singers in the future.
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Edited by: David Schultz