Edge City,
Mystery Ride
(Orchard, 2000)

It's odd that nothing on the CD Mystery Ride refers to the title track except its name. According to the track list and liner notes, there's no song by that name. While it has nothing to do with the music, I do wonder what the story is behind this peculiar omission....

Edge City's Mystery Ride album contains somewhere between 12 and 14 songs; twelve if you believe the liner notes and track list, and fourteen if you consult the CD player. The thirteenth track is the title song, and one of the best songs on the album, and the fourteenth is a brief piece that sounds like part of a song in progress.

This is a good album, with some strong songwriting and effective performances on the songs. All except "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," a Dylan cover, are original songs by Jim Patton, alone or in collaboration with various people. Patton is a good songwriter, who brings a twenty-something perspective and evocative imagery to his music. Most of the songs refer to the lives and feelings of people in early adulthood, as they are making the transitions and decisions that will determine the courses of their lives.

"Mystery Ride" is a wonderful and at times funny song about an old classmate who has achieved an almost mythical position in his old friends' thoughts. The stories told of him and the speculations about his fate are larger than life, yet stand in for all our experiences. Nicely done, particularly handling some serious subjects with a light touch that makes them all the more effective.

I also love "I Turn To You," a song about the love between lovers, friends or family who know they can rely upon each other. Sherry Brokus' vocals are perfect for the lyrics. Her singing on "Aliceanna Street" is excellent too, -- a sad and brave account of an ordinary life that hasn't turned out the way it should have, and yet is lived with courage.

I'm less fond of "Outsider" and "Juggler." The first is a cliched anthem of adolescent rebellion and the second an equally cliched put-down of the choices and complexities older adults face, from the omniscience of youth. Joni Mitchell covered much the same ground with far more verve and sophistication in her album The Hissing of Summer Lawns. I found both these songs to be an interruption in an otherwise strong album, with writing that was in no way up to the standards of the other songs.

The liner notes include the lyrics to most of the songs, although in a format that's hard to read. The other information included is sufficient to answer most questions, including the years in which many of the songs were written. I wish more artists included this, especially when the songs span a period of more than 10 years.

Edge City is an interesting group, and Mystery Ride is a good CD with several excellent songs. Patton's songwriting strength lies in the telling of stories, a focus strongly within the modern folk tradition and capable of communicating almost any mood and situation. In general the more recent songs are more sophisticated lyrically and emotionally than the earlier pieces, and I look forward to hearing more from Patton and Edge City.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 8 December 2001

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