A Review of the Vance Gilbert CD
"Unfamiliar Moon"

"Unfamiliar Moon"
by Vance Gilbert

Copyright 2004

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Smooth. Jazzy. Delicate. Flowing. Making the hard work of musical creation and delivery seem effortless. That just about sums up both Vance Gilbert and the songs on "Unfamiliar Moon," his latest release.

Easy-to-be-likened the Nat "King" Cole of the folk music world due to his graceful, fluent vocal style, Gilbert focuses on the wondrous highs and bottomed-out lows of human relationships as the primary subject matter here.

Dismissing a departing partner in "You Can Go Now," Gilbert sings:

"...Brush away the treasures
You never learned to hold
We'll wave one last goodbye
The fool and his fool's gold..."

A sinner forcibly departs his town, his lover and at least one child of his in the compelling "Leaving Avon." With lazy accordion backing coming in halfway through the cut, Gilbert sings this one with an emotive mix of plaintive defiance. What makes this song work so well is the artful, side-by-side placement of the listener with the parting protagonist as he makes his way past familiar people and places on his way to the outskirts.

"Unfamiliar Moon," the title cut, is a lament of loss:

"...That can't be our song
Those aren't the words I know
The melody's all wrong
but the DJ says 'that's just how it goes...'"

This dovetails well with "Lie To Me," with Gilbert singing of one who knows his relationship is built on quicksand yet would rather continue with the charade than end it.

"Gondolier" and "Unforgiveable" (no, not "Unforgettable") are THE cuts one can easily imagine sung by Nat Cole.

"Your Brighter Day" is an anthem of woe endurance but with a burst-of-optimism ending.

A father/husband's death in war provides a curious catharsis in "That Front Porch Song." Despite the arrival of the tragic news, the reaction is solely the wife's gratitude-inflected enumeration of her spouse's best qualities.

Concluding with "Alone Down Here," his hopeful yet bittersweet prayer of the shifting athiest/agnostic/believer addressing a (possible) higher power, Gilbert, quietly strumming an electric guitar, provides a most elegant synthesis of human behavior and critical earthly questions.

Reflective subject matter written and sung by the best male vocalist in folk music today, what's not to like?

Track List:

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