A Review of the CD
by Richard Shindell

by Richard Shindell

Copyright 2001 SIG 1270
Signature Sounds Records
ph: (800)-694-5354

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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My guess is Richard Shindell never received the toy of his dreams as a child. What else can account for his apparent love of trucker and truck driving songs? Especially for an ex-seminarian who, by his own admission, has never set foot in such a vehicle. Three of the fifteen cuts on his new, live release are related to this mode of transport: "The Next Best Western," "Willin'," and "The Kenworth Of My Dreams."

However, as with most Shindell songs, there is subtext. These offerings are not necessarily about triple axles and double loads. Shindell focuses on the state of the driver behind the wheel. The second verse of "The Next Best Western" is such an example:

"...Did he who made the Lamb
Put the tremble in the hand
That reaches out to take my quarter
I look him in the eye
But there isn't any time
Just time enough to pass the tender
The highway takes its toll
The green light flashes go
And it's welcome to Ohio..."
Alongside subtext is Shindell's magnificent use of metaphor and his distinct way of looking at and portraying people, places and events. His songs are akin to musical short stories, with the depth and nuance of such. Of a courier on the battlefield in the title cut "Courier," he sings:
"...Guardian of the word
Hand him all you've seen
Hand him all you've heard
Hand him all your pearls..."
"Fishing" employs the grandest use of metaphor. With an immigration agent pressing a detainee for names and identifications of others, Shindell sings:
"...It's easy to bite, you just take the bait
You can't snap the line, don't fight the hook
Hurts less if you don't try to dive..."
In "Reunion Hill," he portrays a war widow still holding out hope for her husband's return:
"...Alone there in a sea of blue
It circles every afternoon
A single hawk in God's great sky
Looking down with God's own eyes
He soars above Reunion Hill
I pray he spiral higher still
As if from such an altitude
He might just keep my love in view..."
The last verse in "A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress," is yet another example of Shindell letting the listener form the picture by connecting the dots. Of two people attracted to each other but married to others, he sings:
"...The kids are fine, they're six and nine
I think you'd probably like my wife
But the kitchen light seems much too bright
For what I find myself thinking tonight..."
Also to be found are many other masterpieces: "Arrowhead," "Nora," "On A Sea Of Fleur-De-Lis," "The Ballad Of Mary Magdalen (with Mary voicing that great line about her relationship with Jesus, "It was his career or mine") and the marvelous "Transit."

Even in "Are You Happy Now," a seemingly simple tune about the breakup of a relationship around Halloween time, he still manages to shine with:

"...The children peered into the room
A cowboy shivered on the porch
Cinderella checked her watch
A hobo waited in the street
An angel whispered trick or treat
But what was I supposed to do
But to sit there in the dark
I was amazed to think that you
Could take the candy with you too..."
This could appropriately be called a 'Greatest Hits' release (if there is such applicability to folk singers) since most, if not all, of Shindell's best material is included (there are also cuts by Lowell George and Bruce Springsteen). It's wonderful to finally have a collection of all this marvelous music on one CD. Given the chance, one listen will cement the wizardry of Shindell, both his songwriting and presentation, into the mind of most any music fan.

Shindell on vocals and guitar, is assisted by Lucy Kaplansky on vocals; Lincoln Schleifer on bass; Denny McDermott on drums; John Putnam on electric guitar; Greg Anderson on bouzouki, cittern and guitar; Lisa Gutkin on violin; Rad Lorcovic on accordion and Larry Campbell on violin.

Track List:

All songs by Richard Shindell, unless otherwise noted.

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