Good Good Man
The Best of American Music That Evolved Into Americana.
Even in these days of information overload on the World Wide Web and most probably Social Media, I’m still a great believer in ‘word of mouth’ when it comes to discovering good music; as that’s the format I hope RMHQ can still be in 2020.
Which brings me to this album by Boston sexagenarian Vance Gilbert, who via ‘word of mouth’, recently came to the attention of Cary Baker at Conqueroo; one of our industries most illustrious PR companies; and has passed it on to us simply because he knows our eclectic tastes, and ‘he wants the world to find out about Gilbert!’
A brief look at Gilbert’s bio shows a man who treads a very singular path regardless of the financial consequences …… something of a ‘musicians musician’?
Opening track Pie and Whiskey is a delightfully laid-back acoustic Americana-Folk song that reminds me of James Taylor AND Keb Mo! That’s the beauty of this album; Gilbert’s bizarre ‘influences’ come together to create what is almost pure Americana Music, as it gathers together Folk, Country, Blues, Soul and even dashes of Jazz to generate simple songs that are incredibly complex yet always easy on the ear.
The Soulful title track Good Good Man slides in at #2 and feels like you are listening to a smooth 21st Century ballad singer in the mould of Brook Benton, but who can write a razor sharp song.
Gilbert’s Jazz roots shine brightly on the humorous Zombie Pattycake and again on the slightly more rocky Trust; then he casually enters Randy Newman territory on the haunting Cousin Shelly’s Stationwagon; which kinda defies genrefacation.
It’s a personal thing of course; but I love it when a musician can dip in and out of genres at will; and use their distinctive vocals to thread them altogether; and Vance Gilbert is a Master Craftsman in this sphere.
The autobiographical Hitman and the beautiful love song Sunflower are the type of songs that we associate with those ‘coffee shop’ legends of the 1960’s but are also as contemporary as anything you are going to hear on College Radio today.
As a ‘man of a certain age’ myself; two particular songs here felt like Gilbert was singing about me; and me alone …….. although they are probably very personal to him, himself.
There’s a quaint false start to the jaunty Gospel-Folk of Another Good Day Above Ground (Lord) which is pretty much what it ‘says on the tin’ but very thoughtful too; and there’s a similar vein to the awesome When I Cross Over; which has some incredible lines tucked away that it’s easy to miss if you’re not careful.
“When I cross over
I’ll ask forgiveness
Because I walk uncertain
I walk on his shoulder
My burning question about Heaven’s perfection
Why can’t we have that
Right here on Earth?”
That’s the joy in this great discovery; not just has Vance Gilbert got an amazing and very distinctive voice; but he can write a mighty powerful song too.
Then there is the song that tightened my chest and made me forget to breathe for a few seconds.
Yet again, it sounds like no other song here; yet somehow fits in quite perfectly. Part history lesson, part love song and part poetry Wildflower is as timeless as Americana and American Folk Music gets; harking back to the early 1960’s while evoking many happy memories of the 1970’s bed-sit singer songwriters I still adore; yet somehow still managing to sound as fresh as anything Ed Sheeran or Adele will produce this decade.
I alluded earlier to Gilbert’s songwriting having poetic qualities; and that comes to fruition on the final track The Day Before November which is a fearsome Beat Poem about Gilbert’s childhood with more detail in every line than Scorsese manages in thew whole of The Irishman!
Vance Gilbert has been around the scene in Boston and Philadelphia for a very long time, gigging, touring, supporting many, many ‘stars’ and releasing several previous albums; but this release is stunning from start to finish and really does deserve to bring him to a much wider audience across the globe!
I love this quote:
“If Joni Mitchell and Richie Havens had a love child, with Rodney Dangerfield as the midwife, the results might have been something close to the great Vance Gilbert.” As the above quote from Richmond magazine suggests, Vance Gilbert defies stereotypes. It’s little wonder then that he also exceeds expectations. In this case, those two qualities go hand in hand.
“I’m black, I sing, I play an acoustic guitar, and I don’t play the blues,” Gilbert insists. That may be a broad statement, but it rings with truth.
Released 24th January 2020