JEREMY IVEY – The Dream And The Dreamer (Anti-)

The Dream And The DreamerJeremy Ivey’s The Dream and the Dreamer is a collection of tunes that touch the tough folk rock semi-tone that spirals between the “stars and burnt out cars”.

It’s said the devil is in the details. That’s probably true; but in great folk-rock Americana music, that’s also the best place to find glimpse of heaven, too. This album does just that: It captures musical snapshots of America–images of “smoke from the sewers in the rain” and torches of the hate parade” all briefly lighted by one tired blinking neon light. This isn’t the exuberant Romanticism of Walt Whitman’s ‘I Hear America Singing’; rather, these songs sing Polaroid portraits of the sadly beautiful people who tread the streets of anywhere other than cliched cowboy town of Laredo.

Please allow me to invoke an American baseball phrase, batting out of turn, and jack the seventh song, ‘Gina the Tramp,’ into the lead-off spot, simply because it is a sublime tune. It’s a confessional acoustic song that pleads the pathos of a man lost in a city, without a job, with memories of Gina the Tramp, who ‘made dream catchers out of guitar strings,’ in a town with ‘a waffle house by the cemetery,’ ‘a busted out marquee light,’ a world ‘full of broken people,’ and ‘eyes like a cold bus station.’ These are spooky puzzle pieces, just like those found in a Flannery O’ Connor short story. Sometimes, the story that is left untold is the tale that haunts with the better melody.

And then there’s ‘Laughing Willy,’ a song that’s also batting out of turn. This is deep eerie stuff that conjures an autumnal scarecrow half-told and half-whispered tragic tale like The Band once concocted. It’s a trip back home that ends with the words, “The music of the after world is ringing in my ears”. That’s a magical incantation.

But the opening tune, ‘Diamonds Back To Coal,’ sets the folk-rock template. This is nicely pulsed (and very catchy) rock that chronicles the plight of America, as we ‘walk through a dead man’s town,’ and need to understand ‘the land we barrowed,’ ‘turn diamonds back to coal,’ and return to the simple beauty of Andrew Wyeth’s Christiana’s World. In a weird way, it’s an American answer to Fairport’s brilliant ‘Walk Awhile’ from their Full House album.

The Dream And The Dreamer is in the same orbit as the best of Neil Young, Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor stuff, and very recent Dave Rawlings’ recordings. That’s rarified air.

‘Falling Man’ is more pop pulsed. And it reminds me, oddly enough, of a great tune from Ray Davies’ Working Man’s Café or his Americana album with its sad chorus that yearns for a time with “no god or souls to save”. It’s the theme of ‘Apeman’ revisited, with Sir Raymond’s constant distrust of our very modern world with its “motor traffic rumble”.

There are also introspective songs that quell the tough photography of the other tunes. The autobiographical ‘Story of a Fish,’ with its Neil Young golden-hearted pulse rate, pleads to be a “river” to another’s “sea”. Then ‘Worry Doll’ chugs along with a bit of barroom honky-tonk piano and recalls the pathos of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Lodi.’ And yet, it throws a lifejacket with the line, “There might be something real inside this dream”. That’s the gist (and title) of this record: It’s a conversation between the dream and the dreamer’s stern reality.

Two songs, ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Ahead, Behind’, are pure crystal river country music that tell tales of weary travel, with at least one whiskey chaser. These songs echo the early 70’s sound of The Flying Burrito Brothers or the lesser known Mason Proffit. Yeah, a pedal steel sings, while wife and producer Margo Price harmonizes with a hitch-hiked highway heaven voice.

Now, it’s also said that lightening never strikes twice. But the few simple chords that usher in the final song, ‘The Dream and the Dreamer,’ once opened the epic psychological drama of (my beloved) Mott the Hoople’s ‘When my Mind’s Gone’ from the brilliant Mad Shadows album. Besides being an opportunity to champion Ian Hunter and Mott, it’s also important to say that these chords can rise again and herald yet another tune that deep sea dives into President Kennedy’s immortal words, “It’s as old as Scripture and as clear as the American Constitution”. The song is that good. It’s that patient. It bleeds with that history. And it parts some sort of Biblical sea. The “dreamer,” despite the Mayflower’s promise, finds the ‘’dream” flickering, under the light of yet another blinking neon glow, and sadly, “he drives his car on the native graves”.

The great Stan Lee of Marvel Comics once proclaimed, “‘Nuff Said”.

The equally great D.H. Lawrence said, “As I say, it is perhaps easier to love America passionately, when you look through the wrong end of a telescope…than when you are right there. When you are actually in America, America hurts”.

Oh my! Somewhere between that tough semi-tone that spirals between “the stars and burnt out cars,” this one plays with the width of a river gambler’s poker hand holding four of a kind, and it is a great record that just finds yet another simple way to say, “I Hear America Singing”.

Bill Golembeski

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BROPHY’S LAW – True Stories (own label)

True StoriesBrophy’s Law’s album, True Stories, is a jaunty folk-rock ride that has certain festival appeal, and, quite frankly, could quite possibly cause a convention of undertakers to strike a jig.

The first tune, ‘One Man Folk Band,’ informs the listener of the record’s intent: This is quick-paced pub driven catchy folk music with drums, driving acoustic guitar, melodic vocals, and a lover of all things Lindisfarne and their “sleazy snack bar” of the song ‘Fog On The Tyne.’ The main Brophy, Neil, simply wants to play his folk music to the world-wide masses.And don’t forget: (the great) Roy Harper has a song called ‘One Man Rock And Roll Band’ on his classic Stormcock, so there’s a proud tradition here.

“Nice To Know” is, perhaps, the centerpiece of True Stories. Like everything on the record, it’s up-beat in its intent; yet the lyrics toss a spanner into progress’ cogs and proclaim (much like The Kinks’ We Are the Village Green Preservation Society) that it’s “nice to know some things stay the same and they’ll never fade away”. And this record does just that: It captures in melodic amber all the greats of the British folk movement, and then, thankfully, it sings its own tune.

These are songs of the road weary folk guy. Neil Brophy was born in England, travelled to Australia and America, and now resides in Denmark. So, these songs have lots of travel stamps and tread wear on the soles of their shoes. And just to be clear, Brophy’s Law is the new name for the group formally known as The Neil Brophy Band.

Several tunes echo in the footsteps of Australia’s brilliant folk-rock band Redgum. ‘Hitchin NZ’ is yet another folk song with a wide-open acoustic throttle, heavily accented vocals, and a nice punch of a melody. ‘Far Away’ brings a banjo and whistle into melodic fray. By the way, the music of Brophy’s Law swims in the wake of such great Redgum tunes ‘I Was Only 19,’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Me’. So, the comparison is high praise.

Yes, this album has a lot to offer for fans of Oysterband, The Saw Doctors, (the great) Runrig, and even the up-tempo moments of Al Stewart.

In truth, Neal Brothy fuses these sundry influences and manages to arrange the puzzle pieces into his own design. ‘Road To Mao’ frames its importance with tin whistle and dramatic percussion, while the lyrics delve into deeper psychological waters. Ah, and the mandolin simply sings with friendship. ‘Rag ‘n’ Bone,’ again, is a kind musical portrait and a lovely song that exists in the same orbit as ‘Mr. Bojangles’ and The Band’s own tribute to street people, ‘Rags & Bones’ from their Northern Lights – Southern Cross album. And the brilliant ‘Fear Of Fear’ jogs a friendly path while re-stating the always pertinent Lord Of The Flies theme that begs freedom from ‘The Beast,’ a beast that can, through fear, kill us all. Sometimes, music can sing an important song.

By the way (again!) the late Vin Garbutt slaked those critics who said he never did anything for the vegetarians with his tune ‘The Death of a Chickpea.’ Well, with equality in mind, finally comes an anthem for those of us who are addicted to record albums, called appropriately, ‘The Record Collector.’ The words “vinyl on my mind” sing a familiar tune, and because of those darn vinyl grooves, “I was never alone”. Good Vibrations, indeed!

It’s just an idea, but ‘Bears Go Fishing’ (despite its wonderful title) may be a bit slight. It’s an obvious festival hit. However, for an album proper, it’s a lightweight throwaway. It echoes the odd song out like ‘Country Jam’ from Magna Carta’s album, Songs From Wasties Orchard or Gordon Lightfoot’s concert favorite ‘The Auctioneer’ tagged at the end of Dream Street Rose.

Not only that, but the next track, ‘Viking Rover,’ is an obvious homage to The Clash, circa London’s Calling, and has enough humor, swagger, crazy mandolin, and good clean punk-folk-and rock ‘n’ roll theft to satiate Dickens’ Artful Dodger’s desire to snatch some rich guy’s snuffbox.

And then the final song, ‘Lucky People,’ makes a pilgrimage, again, to The Clash, rolls words and harmonica like Dylan, name checks The Stray Cats, and then, in the end, harmonizes like The Beatles did in their early mop-top days.

True Stories is a rare breed of an album that captures the energy a truly great festival band in a studio production. That’s not an easy thing to do. And the Brophy boys enjoy tradition; they play tradition; and like the god Janus, they push tradition forward, while at the same January Man time, love all the tunes that were lovingly played in the folk-rock past.

Bill Golembeski

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‘The Viking Rover’ will be the next single: