The Life of a Minor Poet

Hugh Moffatt

(Watermelon CD1047)

Watermelon Records
P.O.Box 49056
Austin, Texas 78765
Phone: (512) 472-6192

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Alf Storrud
(alf.storrud@east.uio.no)

In an interview, Hugh Moffatt once stated: "The country music I love has its roots in folk. If you're not involved in chopping wood and carrying water, you won't be writing about anything anybody else can relate to." That statement pretty much sums up what this CD is about: touching, personal songs about childhood, the loss of love, belief (in God and in art) mixed with several humourous up-tempo songs, challenging, for instance, the cliches of conventional love songs:

If we've got a love that's true
why can't we have an ocean view
I want you, and money too...
(from Money Too)

Moffatt has been around for some time now. He first recorded for Mercury back in the late 1970's, and in recent years, six albums have been released by different American and European labels. A "songwriter's songwriter" his songs have been recorded by Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Kathy Mattea, Earl Scruggs, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Like another Nashville songwriter - David Olney, who co-wrote the title track - Moffatt does not strictly limit himself to country, but mixes several musical styles into the stew.

The album opens with the almost Spanish feel of New Moon Night, then moves into rock on Sugar Dream and Money Too, touches vaudeville in "Brontosaurus Baby" and finishes with the country-folk of the last three cuts, which loosely can be described as a trilogy about faith: Angels evokes a child's religious feelings, Another Road reflects the grown-up man's hunger for redemption; while the title track can be read as Moffatt's artistic credo:

To work for gold is to learn to say
What others want to hear
To work for love is to sing from the soul
When no one seems to care
To stand in front of empty seats
My whole life on display
To rise or fall like a mighty king
On a minor poet's pay.
(from The Life of a Minor Poet)

Musical highlights on this CD include a great slide-guitar solo on Money Too reminiscent of The Allman Brothers band in its prime, and the nice, almost minimalistic guitars on Love Game that carve out subtle sound sculptures behind Moffatt's voice. The band - Jerry Kroon on drums, Mike Chapman on bass, Martin Delray and Dru Lombar on guitar - provides excellent backing throughout, with alot of subtle details that gradually reveal themselves with repeated listening.

Moffatt's heartfelt, folksy vocals and effective acoustic accompaniment makes this a CD I'll want to return to again and again. It is an excellent album which confirms Nashville's reputation as "one of the last bastions of song craftsmanship in America".

Selections:

  • New Moon Night
  • Sugar Dream
  • Love Game
  • Somewhere Among the Briars
  • Money Too
  • I Know the Difference Now
  • Be My Brontosaurus Baby
  • The Old Days
  • A Red Rose for Lisa
  • Angels
  • Another Road
  • The Life of a Minor Poet

Edited by David Schultz

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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