A Review of the CD
"Tiger Tattoo"
by Andrew Calhoun

"Tiger Tattoo"
by Andrew Calhoun

Copyright 2002
Waterbug Records
P.O. Box 12736
Portland, OR 97212
ph: (800)-466-0234

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 10/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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To enter the world of Andrew Calhoun often requires an A train to obliqueness. In his latest release, "Tiger Tattoo," Calhoun again demonstrates he remains grounded neither perpendicular nor parallel, but that he's also added structured story songs to his repertoire. Maintenance of his usual standard, plus his tilling of new ground, is sweet news. The best of all worlds for folk music fans.

To wit: "Goin' Down To See John Prine" is a most interesting cut. Remaining an artistic tribute, it is remarkable for both its breadth of insight and the sunlight and shadow portrayal of a living fellow singer-songwriter.

Calhoun, as a youth, depicts Prine's rise to stardom and gift to his audiences:

"...Then I called out a favorite song, John stopped his show and smiled
At me in growing silence there, I felt like heaven's child
It's a blessing I would carry, through trouble, dread and tears...

That songs so filled with loneliness should leave us less alone
As if to love your neighbor were as easy as the phone
He'd sing 'A friend that's been turned down will be a friend of mine'
And strangers felt like family then, goin' down to see John Prine..."

Prine shatters this deification with a period of out-of-control substance abuse as Calhoun sings: "'Who'd believe this strung-out fool was the man who wrote 'Sam Stone'?"

Calhoun concludes that when Prine comes face-to-face with the pearly gates, St. Peter, the Muses and Montgomery's Angel will harmonize:

"...Who's to speak for anyone, and who's to cast a stone
At one who eased our loneliness, but couldn't bear his own..."
The innocuous-sounding "Fred's Brother" is inhabited by a family burdened with woes. With all battling demons seen and unseen, the brother in the song title is to marry. Calhoun so eloquently counters the clan's difficulties with the blindness and venom of the minister performing the ceremony:
"...But I recoil to recall the twisted things he said
His words flowed on like oily snakes that rent the air and fled
And he could quote the words of Paul, and Jesus' death and rise
But he could not see the holy thing that stood before his eyes
He told them where the spirit lived, he warned them how it moved
As if true love, the miracle, could somehow be improved..."
The beauty of "When I Have Arms Again" is the best demonstration of why Calhoun was the favorite songwriter of the late Dave Carter. Calhoun describes a mental breakdown, combined with the myth of Icarus, in a gorgeous tableau. This is lyrical composition that should be studied by anyone wishing to enter the songwriting field.

Calhoun's touching tribute to Carter, "I Shall Not Look Away," is simply the most eloquent of all the Carter testimonials. His concluding verse:

"..."I found nothing to believe," you said,
Somehow I think that's right
If the answer to the question's
Out there buried in the night
Where every star will falter
Each bridge to dust will burn
If it's from love we come and live
To love we must return"
Singing of a co-worker on a temporary job in the title cut "Tiger Tattoo," Calhoun fleshes out the young woman who is 23, endured a bout with cancer and is living with a man who's eyeing a return to his wife:
"...and she looks so pale, like she's wasting away
I lend her my walkman to get through the day
she brings halloween cookies, silly names make us laugh
and she shows me a white tiger tattooed on her calf..."
The job and the song concludes with this wish:
"...something unspeakable happened to Amy
it was held in a poem she never did show me
a quiet goodbye, my assignment is through
may the angel pass over that tiger tattoo"
Calhoun also offers a Scottish traditional song "I'm A Rover," another interesting story song in "Tom Brown,"and a remembrance of his schooling in "Miss Hill," that originated from an elementary school teaching residency.

He uses his mother's name, Joy, for both philosophical meaning, as a mantra and as the opening song title.

As usual with Calhoun's work, the production is fairly sparse, primarily his guitar, voice and words. But, oh those words.

Calhoun on vocals and guitar, is backed by Claire Bard on vocals and electric bass; the late Dave Carter on vocals; Tracy Grammer on violin and vocals; Don "Fuzzy" Purcell on mandolin and Donny Wright on acoustic bass.

Track List:

All songs written by Andrew Calhoun, except as noted. Copyright © 1998-2015 Kevin & Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews. All rights reserved.

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