A Review of the Russ Rentler CD
"Scarecrow's Lament"

"Scarecrow's Lament"
by Russ Rentler

Copyright 2006

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/06
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Many have spoken and written about the healing power of music, but very few have covered the entire spectrum as Russ Rentler has, being a former medical doctor now devoted to performing music full-time.

While there may not be a professional oath a musician swears by, unless poverty qualifies, Rentler certainly does no harm with this release.

His subject matter is intriguing and quirkily presented: he moves from inhabitants of "The Wizard of Oz" to prairie dogs, Amelia Earhart, the Pontiff, a doctor's travails, the developmentally disabled, family and addictions, mannequins, gunky car interiors and more. With his mindset, I'd guess this former physician was called in to consult with his brethren many times, nailing even the most obscure ailments.

Rentler opens with what could be an inside reference to his former bandmates (more on that later) in "Prairie Dog Exodus," a Noah's Ark of animals bidding certain rodents goodbye. If you can wrap your brain around that one, L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and Scarecrow are depicted in the title cut, "Scarecrow's Lament," on a romantic road trip with a shot at lawyers in the final line.

A bittersweet tale about Amelia Earhart, told from the perspective of the man spurned as the co-pilot on her last flight, is illuminated in "Waltzing Amelia." Probably drawing from his tenure in the medical profession, Rentler sketches a doctor filling the hole in his life with a controlled substance in "Fool for a Doctor." The last verse goes:
"...Now the new wing of the hospital has been named after him
He's as close to sainthood as you could be for a Lutheran
Still some rumors circulate that he lived in sin
With a little mistress named Demerol"
Then Rentler pokes fun at the debris developing inside his car from his discarded foodstuffs and various spills. He closes "New Car Smell" with:
"...Well sometimes I do wonder if I'm a hazard on the road
One more rotten sandwich and I know she could explode
While we're worried about the weapons far across the deep blue sea
I'm driving through our neighborhood in a WMD"
"Nobody's Fool" is an elegantly crafted rendering of a developmentally disabled person and his experiences in life.

A budding romance between department store inhabitants is portrayed in "Black Friday." It's cleverly written, so much so that the listener gets almost halfway through the song before truly understanding the unfolding story. Rentler has fun again with lines such as these:
"...We're both cut from the same cloth, pressed from the same mold
I never thought I'd find my soul mate in this department store
I'll stay with you way past closing time
I'll romance you in this small town five and dime..."
Generations of family dysfunction are the genesis for the bluesey "One-Eyed Grandma." Sometimes what gets handed down is good, sometimes not. The selection of a new Pope is dramatized in "Room of Tears." Intergenerational father-to-son reactions about tragic events and war inhabit "The Way Things Might Have Been."

It's good for us that Rentler has retired his stethoscope. But please, please, please, at his next concert, refrain from asking him about that particular ache of yours. Just listen to his musical prescription, buy (not take!) two of his CDs and call him in the morning.

Note: Rentler is as close to a Renaissance Man as there is today. Probably nicknamed 'Strings' by those close to him, he plays guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, banjo, bass, autoharp, hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle and dobro.

In the liner notes, there's a 1978 photo of the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band performing. For the uninitiated, Richard Shindell is there on the left, looking like a young John Cusack, John Gorka is present as a budding (no pun intended) Jerry Garcia (say, whatever happened to those two guys?) and Russ Rentler is on the right, looking mighty similar to a young Eric Stoltz.

Track List:

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