This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Six of one. Half dozen of the other. The six even-numbered cuts are traditional tunes. The six odd-numbered selections are new offerings. It would be easy to dismiss this as gimmicky. Too easy, and it doesn't really matter. For Mabus' latest material is continually engaging and he reincarnates the traditional with his new interpretations. Just one listening reveals his eclectic musical and writing styles, veering from traditional to swing, from ballads to social commentary and from bluegrass to gospel.
Opening with "School For Love," Mabus has fun with our illiteracy of amor, a plague suffered by so many. He sings:
...If there was only a class that taught the ABCsPer Mabus, we are condemned to this final scene unless we learn how to make relationships work:
Of trust and devotion
Lust and emotion
If there was only a school for love..."
"...Now he's wearing his best suit--she's wearing dark glasses"Ramona," with mandolin and guitar backing, has an infectious swing rhythm that gets fingers tapping, hands slapping and legs moving. Mabus' version of "Old Smokey" is slower than the usual presentation, resulting in greater dramatic effect.
Got all of their papers in a neat little pile
The judge is too busy to pay much attention
And only the lawyers are wearing a smile"
Crooning the wistful "Storybook Romance," Mabus employs a multitude of cultural references: Hans Christian Anderson, Brothers Grimm, Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty, the little Dutch Boy, King Kong, Jack and Jill and the Wizard of Oz.
He does the same in "Little Baby Lindberg." Opening with lyrics that bring Greg Brown to mind, he sings:
"Little Baby Lindberg
Never saw it coming--He was just like you
You'll be snatched away--some fine day
And there's not much you can do..."
He goes on to bring Samson and Delilah, Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, John Jacob Astor and Abraham Lincoln into this fray about control versus fate. Of Samson and Delilah, Mabus sings:
"...Samson and Delilah"Virus On The Town" is a subtle yet powerful social commentary. A la Cheryl Wheeler's "If It Were Up To Me," Mabus sings:
Had "intimacy issues"--They were just like you
When she spilled the beans--to those Philistines
There's not much you can do..."
"...In the schoolyard--in the officeAfter pointing fingers at Hollywood, lobbyists and the U.S. Congress, he concludes:
In the church or on a train
Here we go, here we go again
Interview the neighbors, the lovers and the friends
The characters keep changing but the story never ends
Call the doctors--call the priest
Call the counselors of grief
Point the camera at the man who wears the frown
For the camera will not tell
Anything it cannot sell
And the headline is--a virus on the town..."
"...There's a virus on the landThe mandolin backing on "Balm of Gilead" lends significant emotion to this gospel-like song. The vision of down-home heaven depicted in the bluegrassy "Back Porch Of Glory" never sounded so nurturing or appealing. Mabus concludes with a rousing rendition of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down."
You can hold it in your hand
You can fill the chamber with another round
You can pull the hammer back
And prepare for the attack
There's no safety with a virus on the town"
An alternative title for this release could be that of the 1972 Alan J. Pakula film: "Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing." Mabus covers the spectrum here.
Mabus, on guitar and vocals, is backed by Madcat Ruth on harmonica; and Don Stiernberg on mandolin.
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