Signature Sounds Recordings - SIG 1257
P.O. Box 106
Whately, MA 01093
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/00
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Peter Mulvey is a dangerous man. Scratch that, make it a dangerous musician. Going for a ride with him means heading down back alleyways and plowing through uncharted territory that seems vaguely comfortable and familiar but remains cunningly obscure. His is not laid back, melody-is-king folk. He's also not anywhere near a metalhead's delight but he certainly swoops and swerves within an unsettling acoustic landscape.
Fronted by cleverly quirky lyrics and impressive guitar, his vocals register a quiet solemnity, as if abiding no foolishness. Nevertheless his words sometimes dance within a context of playfulness. His opening song, "The Trouble With Poets," is a prime example. He sings:
the trouble with poets is they talk too much
they tell us it hurts them a little more
we cannot tell if they make this up
we've never stood in their shoes
in their skins
in their heads
on their shore...
...the trouble with shoes is they come untied
you might take a fall down the stairs
a poet might come along and say
'ain't that just like life?'
I think the trouble with poets is
they see poetry
...the trouble with time is it don't go back
maybe that trouble is with you and me
we are so scared of that fade to black
that we'll push, and we'll pull
and we'll do
to be free..."
He closes with:
"...I know I push, I struggle
I know it's just the deal
I know it's only trouble
I know it makes us real
but I know sometimes
not even poets know
how I feel..."
The cut "Words Too Small To Say" is a partially spoken-word and rap rhythm piece molding existentialism and angst to a framework of today's society:
"What good is a syllable?
I wish this disease was killable
nothing you say can change the way
the hole remains unfillable
the burden unshakable
the breakable soul is up there without a net
are we having fun yet?
still looking for the cure
the pure state of mind, but who has the time?
who has the time?
gone are the days of the hero
nothing left but the one and the zero
and which one are you?
you decide alone,
the dial tone your only guide
since the deicide of Neitzche and Freud
left us with the void
well thank you, big fellas
it was a hell of a thing to do...
gone are the days of the priest
and the shaman can I get an amen?
the answer is no, but oh - a bottle of pills
for twenty five bucks a week
and all that you seek
and all that is hunting you down
recedes to the sound of a dull roar
but you're up off the floor
and not so unsteady
ready? swallow the first one..."
Taking an disparate view from John Prine's comical "Please Don't Bury Me," Mulvey's "Every Word Except Goodbye" appears as a mystical divvying up last will and testament:
"Give my shoes to the dog
leave my hair to the wind
and only smoke in the clothes I was standing in
give my eyes to your face
send my birds up the pole
leave my kisses in the dust
by the side of the road...
give my love to the lost
sell my worries in pairs
hide my hopes in the dark underneath the stairs...
hang my heart in the trees
scatter my name to the wind
keep for yourself the thrill of my favorite sin..."
"Bright Idea" presents a numbing paranoid vision of making worthwhile choices and living the righteous life within a context of doing your best and controlling what you can. Mulvey, amidst a backing of eerie but complementary guitar and, on the verses, sounding similar to Greg Brown, sings:
"They got my uncle fired
they got the power ties
they got my checkbook wired
they got the buzz saw eyes...
they got the mainframe locked
they got the Nixon tapes
and when you punch that clock
somehow it feels like rape...
and they define the norm
with the saline breast
they got the form fit form
they got the low cut dress..."
He finishes with:
"...I read my books
by candle light
I sit to pray
I love my wife
I'll play their game
but still be kind
and hope that I
don't wake to find
that I guessed wrong
and now they've come
to take away
what I've begun..."
The delicately poetic "Tender Blindspot" is another partially spoken-word piece. Mulvey speaks and sings:
"...all at once the weight has lifted
forgotten the weeping all last night
she's wearing a frown borrowed from her father
her head is tilted a little to the right
a little to the right...
the days are short and gray
it's the hardest time of the year
and she must've missed the road sign that said:
'from now on nothing will be clear'
nothing will be clear
and the whole day is calling
but she is frozen to the ground
there's something in the silence here
something waiting to be found
waiting to be found
and it's just your tender blindspot
not the ruination of your soul
as long as trees are skying
tears are weeping seas to make us whole
and you wonder why you're aching
why you should go on you just don't know
it's just your tender blindspot
from that tender blindspot you must grow."
Don't settle in for a relaxing time with Mulvey. Rather than employing volume to jar the listener, his disquieting, off-kilter undertones deliver uneasiness. Maybe he's an acquired taste, maybe not. Find out.
All songs written by Peter Mulvey and David Goodrich, except as noted.
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