Ry Cavanaugh’s album Time For This could well be the soundtrack from a History Channel search for the grave of Henry David Thoreau. That sort of thing still gives us hope, just like a really good John Prine tune that has “broken the speed of the sound of loneliness” and always manages to crack a tough alkali Alamo smile. This record plays the music of our patchwork sampler Constitution, which against a lot of odds, always hopes for the best.
And it’s important to mention that Ry is a member of the odd-duck (and roots wonderful) “folk band in a whiskey bottle”, Sessions Americana. Now, this is Ry’s first solo album in twenty years. Not only that, but these are songs written by his late father George, so this music is a return, with deep admiration, to a folk singing dad and wonderful days of childhood.
That said, America is a gambling casino that always throws its dice. And this album throws a lot of acoustical American dice. ‘Carillon’ rings a clarion call that evokes slow danced railway American travel, with a simple but deeply passionate guitar, and a desire to find the train “to carry me back home”. ‘Cold Wind’ ups the tension with a sturdy pulse. Ry Cavanaugh’s soothing “old rugged cross” voice is accompanied with acoustic guitar (aided by Duke Levine) and Jennifer Kimball’s lovely backing vocals. So, this is simple stuff. But the tune dances with Mr. Bojangles’ depth. And ‘Too Tired For Drinking’ is a waltz timed confession that really touches a somber early Dylan root.
Ah, ‘Lost Woman Song’, spins tradition into a very modern up-beat testament for mutual respect. It’s a nice tune. And always remember The Band’s enduring question from their song ‘Across The Great Divide’: “Now tell me, hon, what ya done with the gun?”.
The title song, ‘Time For This’, travels down to Bleeker Street, with a soft melody that floats like a really nice dream of unwritten Fred Neil songs.
‘Trinity’ gets (sort of) religious, as American literature does from time to time, and a “phone call from God” is always (sort of, again) something of importance to mention in a folk song.
A pause for an unsolicited plug: Lovers of earthy Americana folk should check out Bob Martin’s 1972 album, Midwest Farm Disaster on RCA and more recently on Riversong Records. It’s a lost masterpiece!
But to get back on track, this album is filled with acoustic tunes that, with repeated plays, get etched into the music memory. ‘Sink Or Swim’ just begs for that hum. What a wonderful chorus! And the song simply sags like a nice and slow pony ride. ‘Help Me Doctor’ gets bluesy, but sings with a familiar Mississippi River pulse.
It’s just an idea, but it’s important to remember the Apollo 11 astronauts, at the last minute, switched off the computer auto-pilot and landed on the moon with human hands on the controls. Ry Cavanaugh, likewise, cuts through all the auto-tuning everything technology, and has made a record that is simple, direct, and is tempered with an acoustic soul.
Then, ‘Gypsy Dad’ says, “magic is going to make you strong”. True. But it also sings about a runaway “gypsy dad” who will “live my life in my own true way”. Lots of pathos. Freedom often leaves yet another “trail of tears”. And “a bird takes flight”. This is a brilliant song that catches the curve ball of reality’s grip on a tough slider. There are no answers. There’s just the stuff that happens every day. This is (sort of again, again!) deeply psychological with a very American ethos always singing, like the before-mentioned John Prine song, that we travel with ‘The Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness’ because “You’re out there just to be on the run”.
Let’s just say, this record, like any true American music, will always sing (with the simplest of tunes) the Bruce Springsteen declaration of independence that proclaims, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run”.
Artist’s website: http://www.rycavanaugh.com/