Bill Passalaqua,
Reckless Pedestrian
(self-produced, 1999)

With only 32 minutes and 46 seconds of music, this is definitely not the longest CD in the history of records. But better short and good than endless and dreary. You can tell that Bill Passalaqua is used to delivering his music with his acoustic guitar and no other instrumentation. The record is fully produced, but still it's never hard to imagine what the songs would sound like if Passalaqua's voice was accompanied by his six strings alone ... which is not to say that Rich Brotherton's many guitars or Champ Hood's fiddle are not vital in making this album as good as it is.

The ten songs never stray too far from a country and folk vein and Passalaqua proves himself to be part of the long-lasting and still-thriving Texan outlaw music scene. The grumbly voice often reminds me of '60s icon Dave Van Ronk, especially when Passalaqua performs a more blues oriented piece like "Milk Cow Blues."

When he joyfully waltzes through his songs other influences come to mind, such as Tom Paxton or Harry Chapin. "Chloe And Caitie," a witty song about two girls and their chalk drawings on the sidewalk, could just as well come from the best work of those two artists. Like them Passalaqua easily mixes irony, classic story-writing, human touch and politics into his writing.

Some songs will go down very well with kids of any age, whereas others are obviously aimed at a more grown-up audience. "More More More" is a good example of the latter, not only because Passalaqua attacks the welfare system with icy irony, but also because only people over 30 are likely to understand the reference to the old New Seekers hit "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." He takes up the theme melody for a few seconds, but changes the lyrics into a very sarcastic "I'd like to teach the world to live in abject poverty."

Passalaqua is a man with a big heart, a big hat and a big love for Texas. And this is a very clever collection of songs and deep thoughts, that makes us wish for more, more, more.

[ by Michael Gasser ]

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