Chris Volpe was either so confident or so broke that he headed into the studio and recorded Refugee Blues in one take, something few musicians would attempt these days. Lucky for him, he's good enough to pull it off and in fact pulls it off beautifully. With a fine voice, a harmonica straight off of the streets of 60s Greenwich Village and a finger picking style which blends extremely well with his songs, he lays out no less than fifteen originals, some ghosting the days on Bleecker and MacDougall, some echoing the cult days of John Fahey and Leo Kottke and all with a signature which is quickly marking Volpe a performer to watch.
If anything sets Volpe apart from his folk contemporaries, it is his ability to weave voice and guitar into a larger whole. While lulling you with effortless vocals, he finger picks his way around the melody until the guitar becomes much more than an instrument of chord progressions. Only later are you aware that the songs reverberating in your head rely on those picked notes which at first seemed like mere accompaniment. Call it an epiphany. Listen enough and you'll get there, I guarantee.
While all songs on the CD are worthy of mention, a few stand out: Shoes for its fine vocal performance and unique picking; The Bandwagon Farm for its eerie feel reminiscent of the psych/folk scene of the late 60s and early 70s; Wait 'til Tomorrow because it's just a damn fine tune; Where the Rubber Meets the Road because it steps out a bit further than others of its ilk.
Envision the street folkie, harmonica held by that strange contraption around the neck, fingers dancing spiderlike along the neck, voice not unlike that of Randy Burns and Tom Rush and a handful of others but better able to carry a tune. That is Chris Volpe. If that sounds like where your ears are, you will most certainly hear this. In fact, I'd lost my Randy Burns ESP-disk albums until just shortly before receiving this. Refugee Blues brings back some great memories while creating some of its own.
After hearing this, all I can say is long live the finger picker.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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