Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Andrew Hibbard clearly sports a Dylan influence, perhaps rather too obviously so at times on numbers such as ‘Sweet Song’ and ‘I’m Coming Over’ where his slurred nasal whine suggests more of a tribute act than an acolyte. That said, however, this, his third album, is an impressive and engaging affair. Opening in lazy, lopealong manner with ‘Changes’, a dusty slice of retro Americana that, with strummed guitar, pedal steel waterfalls and harmonica, harks to early Neil Young as he sings “my voice has grown coarse and my veins they have seen misery/And my blood it was thinned while a black tar grinned patiently”.
It’s followed by the longest cut, the six minute ‘Homewrecker’ (“You think you’re so cool, but you’re hot to the touch…Whenever you meet someone, you induce his lust”) with its Southern county blues groove horns and another striking Dylan echo, in particular ‘I Shall Be Released’, with the backing almost a homage to The Band. From Dylan it’s a short step to Woody Guthrie, and he’s the touchstone (with perhaps a smidgeon of Glen Campbell) for the jauntily strummed, echoingly sung ‘Candyland’, although in fact its bum’s paradise narrative probably has more in common with ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’, though Burl Ives never sang about being a scammer happy with just a stash of weed.
By its very title you know where ‘Talkin’ Foolin’ Around Blues’ is coming from in terms of American musical heritage, an amusing lament from a man who, with perhaps a dash of metaphoric yarn spinning, has “been married to 6 women, been engaged to 5, had kids with 8, dated 17 of em’, kissed 49,hugged more than 10,000” and had more women (“cripples, mutes, blind girls, girls that thought they were mermaids, brown girls, Mexicans,whites, blacks, Asians, Indonesians, Chinese, Indians, Persian, and the elderly, gals who thought they knew it all”) than for his own good. Given the treated vocals where Hibbard sounds more than twice his 25 years, you’d think it was recorded back in the day too.
An acoustic strummed, slow waltz honky tonker ‘We Once Did Believe’ conjures Willie Nelson circa ‘Red Headed Stranger’ on a song of loss, drifting apart and regret (“for a while we did dance in the rain/But it washed off what we wanted, and it displayed all of our reasons, and it left us for what we dreaded to see”), while, with weeping pedal steel and brushed drums, the walztime ‘All Alone’ harks to the softer side of Dylan’s tones, though the lyrics speak of self-loathing (“The water is black, and it doesn’t obscure/the mirror of myself, that I stare and observe/I can’t condemn or cover up what I am”).
Then, steel in tow, it’s back to Guthrie territory with the goodtime stomp of ‘I Wanna Go Back Home’ about feeling the cold of growing older and alone, before ending on a more ruminative note with the slow scuff of ‘Running From The Enemy’ with its ebb and flow electric guitars and the hard earned emotional wisdom that “If you have something to have or hold/Don’t squeeze it if you want it to live/Don’t cage it away for a fix/Because they’ll kill it and tell you it’s fake”.
With songs that often carry the bruises of experience beyond his years, this builds impressively on his previous two releases, he just needs to channel the influences more rather than mirroring them.
Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/andrewhibbardmusic/
‘Running From The Enemy’ – official video: