Well, I reviewed this trio's earlier poetry-music-drama release a while back (here), and the group wasn't terribly enthused with my sentiments. They're not going to be overjoyed this time out either.
As before, the weakest link in the chain is 'poet' Brian Tracy. When I was a teen-ager, I too wrote scads of verse…until I woke up suddenly one morning, realized it was all crap, ashcanned the lot, and was much better off for the enlightenment. Tracy's work is shallow, trite, and forced, though it carries the requisite New Age earmarks demanded down here in SoCal (the group and poet live, work, and gig not far from my cave), and thus he's seen minor regard in Yuphattan Beach and environs. However, that grim critique now rendered, I have to say that if you like this kind of Betty Crocker / Reader's Digest kind of production, Blackbird Ballads is well done, a pageant of interludes and sequences episodically presented in sonorous, if sometimes thin, mellifluity.
Like last time, however, the real talent is Rene Safier, an opinion that has been vouchsafed at the august Telluride Blues Festival contest, where she won the 2005 Acoustic Blues division, bringing the crowd of 10,000 to its feet. Her voice is a fine instrument frequently in line with Joan Baez and Judy Collins, clear, pure, and lilting...though she also possesses a marked country tang. Andy Hill, however, is a bit too much the Dan Hill (no clue if they're related but it wouldn't surprise me) in a voice too oft stage-posed in its quavering frailty and emotions. Very nice cover of Suzanne though. Marty Rifkin appears once more and is his usual degree of excellent on guitars, pedal steel, and whatnots. His hand in the music side accounts for much of the finery experienced throughout the listen.
Brief pastiches of the hallowed oeuvre ghost up and disappear (Whiter Shade of Pale, Into the Mystic, Suzanne, etc.) as the narrative flow wends it way over hill and dale, and one can't help but notice that Brian Tracy's the CD's executive producer. Not surprising, as CDs have long had a very broad vanity press adjunct to them, but I think that credit explains many things. Frankly, once again, what I'm waiting for is a Safier solo CD. I ain't holding my breath, but it'd be a very nice advent. Meanwhile, Blackbird Ballads is going to make fitting mood music for all the little old male ladies typing away down at the Easy Reader and Beach Reporter, the South Bay's twin newspaper social registers, the former a pseudo-Left weenie organization, the latter a realty rag.
Other than that, though…
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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