Jeff Bisch, |
(Pocket Knife, 2002)
If the songs on 40-Watt Stars were classed by Jeff Bisch's voice they would mostly be considered country. Sometimes the music backs that up, other times it ranges to jazz and the blues. Either way, the two fit together smoothly most of the time, sometimes wonderfully to give a tapestry for the imagery in the lyrics.
Jeff Bisch's voice gives "40-Watt Stars" a touch of grit as the lyrics touch on everyday lives. The quiet tragedy of "Devil on the Mountain" is brought home by the tempo and tone of the music. He shifts to catch some of the sorrow of Job with "Nightmares of Job."
Memories swing the mood to a quiet joy in "Daddy Swing Me Higher" as the years take us through the father-daughter relationship. The blues return in "Crucifix" as love comes to an end, and the images set with two sticks make for a strong contrast. A chance encounter is the starting point for "Wildcat of Mt. Gilead" and the tone of the music carries the song through the wording of the chorus.
The beat of "Obvious Blues" feels perfect for a line dance as the lyrics ease along. "Wonder If You'll Dance with Me" tries to stay on the dance floor, but it lacks the smooth confidence of the song before and ends up seeming awkward.
It is possible to be caught in sorrow with "One Last Tear," which ends up getting caught in the blues wanting an escape. So when "Talkin' to a Wall" tries to return to the blues in earnest, it seems oddly out of place. The images play off of each other again in "Black Crow" and that fluid shifting of imagery is one of the best things on this album.
40-Watt Stars is a quiet album, the songs build on you with repeated listens. When the imagery of the songs builds on itself (such as in "Daddy Swing Me Higher") you get some of the best songs on the album.
Paul de Bruijn
27 October 2007