This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 8/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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A illuminating spotlight on ne'er-do-wells--those living a rootless life absorbing more than their fair share of hard knocks while living behind jailhouse bars, in liquorhouse bars or penned in by self-imposed emotional bars--is the melancholy arc of Guthrie Thomas' latest release.
This offering resonates with focused portrayals of befuddled folk, soaked in heartache and regret, apparently devoid of the wisdom necessary for the sustenance of relationships. Poor choices evolve into these scarred souls scurrying from the disarray of broken couplings, bemoaning their mark-of-Cain fate, as if an elusive, invisible barrier curtails any chance for lasting happiness. The key to a life of stability and satisfaction has seemingly been genetically withheld.
An added plus is that Thomas' rough-edged drawl lends authenticity to this wistful material of pain and hardship. The combination of his music and lyrics deftly matches up with his vocals in a synergistic union.
Thomas also makes excellent choices on his accompaniment. The banjo backing on the opening number "I'll Be Lucky," the harmonica interplay on track two "I Can't Count the Times" and the piano work on "My Love Won't Fade Away," "You and Me," "Right By My Side" and "Tonight," all smoothly but profoundly elevate the power and effect of these songs.
Just about every cut here is a winner but especially "Melissa," a bittersweet tune about the needless death of one of life's true innocents who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A roadway crash with a drunken trucker does in this genuine do-gooder described by Thomas as "sweeter than a solid rock candy mountain."
An appropriate closing choice is "Sweet Virginia," a tune with a catchy chorus imploring the lady in question to take at least one more gamble on the possibility of happiness. She apparently declines this earnest appeal to the sad demise of her would-be suitor.
This is a eminently listenable release that fits in with the best of the Texas outlaw tradition. It's an evocative ride through the underbelly of life that leaves one silently mouthing "There but for the grace of God go I."
Thomas is backed by a long list of performers: Marc Edelstein, Ringo Starr, the late Nicolette Larson, John Hartford, Byron Berline, Waddy Wachtel, David Paich, David Foster, Jimmie Keltner, Mark Dawson, Carol Dawson, Johnny Gall, Lee Montgomery, Steve Cropper, Tom Brumley and Albert Cecere.
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