Geez, Louise, but this Michael Koppy guy's not an easy character to shove into a pigeonhole. The sonofabitch fights, kicks, squirms, and wriggles every time you want to paste on one label or another. Then, just to spite ya, when you think you have him figgered out, he takes a left and heads off for somewhere else, so let's call him a multi-contrarian and explore what that means. In essence, the root of his work is country-folk by way of hippe-folk by way of troubador-folk by way of avant-folk by way of some other kind of folk I can't put into words (esp. in All in the Timing) 'cause I'm not sure the term's even been invented yet.
Makes sense, though: he's led a footloose life and came to performance as a musician only after 25 years of, now get this, producing and directing stage musicals, television, concerts (incl. the Blues Project, an ensemble sacred to us ecelecticians!), and such. There's an irony of a skewed magnitude contained in that striking happenstance. Ashmore's Store is a big beautiful CD package replete with 122-page hardbook book (CD-sized) that's a wonder in and of itself. The entire deal's centered in the sprawling half-hour All in the Timing: A Hollywood Romance in Seven Chapters, where Koppy presents a quasi-Joyce-ian cavalcade of word-play and references copiously explained in the lyrics section of the tome, something you're not going to see done much of nowheres nohow, not even in non-fiction works no more……sadly.
The take on the trad We Shall Overcome kind of underpins everything, demonstrating his unorthodox aptitude in solo fingerpicking, which likewise speeds off in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle directions. Elsewhere, though, he's accompanied by a panoply of madly careening pickers, raspers, and singers. River, on the other hand, is quite Gordon Lightfootesque while Til Hell's Dang Done Froze Over crosses Shel Silverstein with a cooled-off David Alan Coe to an Okie reversal of Dave Bromberg's Will not be Your Fool. That stand-out 7-part epic, though, All in the Timing, is worth the price of admission alone. I'm not sure anything exists quite like it, a stream of consciousness river of John Stewart gone buggy, unhinged, and flip city, oft hilarious but bizarrely and panoramically insightful.
Most of Ashmore's Store is of Left sentiment but don't hold too tightly to what you may think that means as Koppy possesses an earthy sense of Humanism that will not subordinate readily to formulaic patterns. There's sexist ribaldry and old school sentimentality as well, everywhere, though its tendering and flavor will be shaped in your perception; thus, follow his sotto voce inflections carefully. This offbeat gent is not just a multi-contrarian but also multi-literate and multi-media, and if he ever decides to make a video of All in the Timing, that's going to be one wigged-out hi-speed Day of the Locust berserkaloid MTV mutant. And I'll be first in line to see it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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