Spook Handy,
Breakfast at Bill's
(Akashic, 2001)

The first thing I noticed about Spook Handy is his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, which really is apparent in his music, and those eyes filled with mischief in the cover photo. Breakfast at Bill's is actually one of two new releases by this artist -- he released a solo version of the same disc entitled Breakfast by Myself. The latter is an "unplugged" or acoustic version. Whichever way you chose to go, you'll get upbeat great music -- folk with a strong touch of bluegrass, country and a wee bit of older style pop and the blues.

This New Jersey resident has a great touch on the guitar and credible talent as a songwriter. All the songs on this disc are original works, although he had a little help on a couple of them from Carl Anderson and Gregg Cagno. The talent he has helping on this disc is really incredible. He has borrowed Jerry Seinfeld's philosophy of surrounding himself with artists who are tops in their fields, and this adds to the entire project.

Joining Spook for Breakfast at Bill's are Frank Vilardi (drums), Dave Post (acoustic and electric bass), Travis Wetzel (violin), Dave Rimelis (violin), Greg Cagno (backing vocals), Frank Cappoli (electric guitars, vocals), Bob Harris (piano), Lara Gonzales (djembe), Mike Madan (mandolin), Keith Crane (cello), Eddie Fogarty (spoons), Eric Squindo (vocals), Susan Alderson (vocals), Karl Dietel (piano, harpsichord) and Heather Hardy (violins).

The disc opens with the tongue-in-cheek "Tube Timing Son of a Gun." A wonderful way to spend the day, if you ask me! "So, when your boss isn't looking / grab your fishing gear. Get bookin' / You's a Tube Timing Son of a Gun." The music will have you wanting to get up and at least do a two-step, while the lyrics will put a smile on your face!

"Breakfast at Bill's," the title track, is a great little piece about a rustic cafe. It sounds like it would be an interesting place to visit and listen to local stories. The mandolin really adds to this piece, taking a country/bluegrass piece and making it something more. Included in the lyrics throughout are some definite laughs, although some of them are extremely subtle. Spook is showing himself to be a master of wit within words.

"Finger Picker #44" is a wonderful instrumental piece, definitely folk-based and allowing Spook to stretch his fingers and show off his talents. This man knows his way around the guitar quite well. This piece is one I found to be soothing ... comforting, like curling up in a big old quilt in front of a fire as the snow falls thick and deep outside. Each note is clear and precise, and it is easy to drift away on the notes and lose oneself in the beauty of the tune.

I've never listened to Spook before this disc, but I can promise I will be listening to it a number of times in the future. I will be on the lookout for his other albums, including the 1996 Top Ten Folk Album Freedom is Your Destiny. This is a man worth listening to -- again and again.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 29 September 2001

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