Hope Street starts out like a riff from Tom Waits' Bone Machine or Frank's Wild Years, dark and forboding, but soon gives way to Ben Ripani's Randy Newman-ish voice, style, and lyrics. Nonetheless, the unorthodox approach and presence of Tony Belledin's clarinet color the mood to sit between Newman's favored dusty days and Waits' back alleys. Don't Cry on Me pulls the singer-songwriter more firmly into the Newman mode but with a skiffley shuffle that Randy wouldn't adopt. Ripani then leans into a Ralph NcTell-ish atmosphere (think Streets of London) fleshed out by violinist Tim Marchiafava, so that a folk wont is evident, fattened up by an almost cinematic feel.
Just as Newman walked between categories, so does Ripani—now cabaretic, now folky, now soft rockish, then a bit Tin Pan Alleyesque. The correct pigeonhole for this is 'offbeat' but not radically so—rather: gently, carefully, empathetically. Several songs, like T, are just him and his acoustic guitar (tracked, in this case) in a cut that soothes but pulls at the borders of the heart, briefly mounting passionately in the refrains. Slowly, you're dragged beneath in his understated gems, fascinated, realizing just how compelling Ripani's music is, how subtly it works its way into odd angles and unruffled pleasures. The gent allows plenty of time for each cut to develop, Inside Outside being a particularly striking example, hurrying nothing.
A bit of John Sebastian can also be caught in Hope Street, from that time between the friendly acidhead's highest points in the Lovin' Spoonful (Darlin' Be Home Soon and that vibe) and his early solo work, as well as a few very faint Joe Jackson elements sidling in at the most sophisticated moments, that very brief period when Jackson mattered and knew how to write (Night and Day). But, really, like Newman was in his time, Rapani is no one's child and that's one of the many factors making his art and this disc impossible to ignore.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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