A Review of the Russ Rentler CD
by Russ Rentler
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/06
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.
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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
"Nobody's Fool" is an elegantly crafted rendering of a developmentally disabled person and his experiences in life.
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"
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
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."
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..."
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.
- Prairie Dog Exodus (3:57)
- Scarecrow's Lament (3:45)
- Crossing the Tiber (2:21)
- Waltzing Amelia (3:24)
- Moravian Street (3:26)
- Fool for a Doctor (3:34)
- New Car Smell (3:28)
- Nobody's Fool (3:04)
- Black Friday (5:35)
- One-Eyed Grandma (3:30)
- Farewell to Whiskey (2:05)
- Room of Tears (4:17)
- The Way Things Might Have Been (4:20)
- Be Thou My Vision (2:37)
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