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Spook Handy - Breakfast at Bill's

Breakfast at Bill's

Spooky Handy

Akashic Records SNH0002

Akashic Records
PO Box 1364
New Brunswick, NJ 08903

Available from http://www.spookhandy.com
and http://www.folkweb.com/spookhandy

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By David Schultz
(schultz@alum.mit.edu)

Spook Handy is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from New Jersey. Breakfast at Bill's is his third album and the companion piece to his album Breakfast by Myself. Whereas Breakfast By Myself presents 12 songs in a solo acoustic setting, Breakfast at Bill's features the same songs with Handy's band, but in a different order. Of the experience, Handy says,

"It was so fun recording with a full band and with a producer who knew how to record a full band while keeping the integrity of the acoustic music feel. When we were done we thought it would be innovative to re-record the whole album solo for those who prefer a more sparse sound. I play most of my gigs solo and occasionally go with the band or a trio. So, now I have recordings of the two extremes."

Breakfast at Bill's opens with the best song on the album and the first single, the finger-snapping Tube Timing Son of a Gun. The song is a catchy jaunt, perfect for AAA radio play. It's an admonition to blow off work, grab the innertube and fishing pole, and head on down to the water. That theme of leaving the 9-5 job appears again on the album. Rather than taking the day off work, Missoula ponders leaving work behind and moving out west. Even Santa Claus gets to take a break during the busy holiday season in Santa's Night Off. We hear Santa tell of his tales during the day working at Wal-Mart and coming home to Mrs. Claus in this romantic ditty.

Many of the songs on Breakfast at Bill's take a positive outlook on life. One notable exception is the melancholy Loaded, which begins
I've got my Rambler loaded up now.
So is my true love.
She's crashed out on the couch
with the flicker in her hand.
I can't stand to watch her life flash by
while she drinks her dreams away.

The reason for having loaded up his Rambler becomes apparent in the last verse, when we find that the narrator is driving from New Jersey to Wisconsin for an out-of-state gig because "they appreciate the man from out of town, as if he's gained some kind of wisdom driving beat up rigs and sleeping on the ground."

The band brings a lot to the songs, especially the title track, which is a fine performance. The band keeps up the rolling pace of the song and you can hear the fun in the studio while recording this particular song: Handy shouts as he hands the bridge over to Dave Rimelis' violin. Dave Post's acoustic bass and Frank Vilardi's drumming provide a fine back beat without being overbearing. Mike Madan's mandolin and Handy's acoustic guitar keep the song driving.

Handy's songs can best be identified as positive, rootsy tunes: sometimes autobiographical, sometimes fictional. One song on the album may best characterize Handy's musical style. In Porch Top Blues, we hear Handy sing,
So, give me some of that porchtop music.
Let those phosphors ring.
We'll stay up here until the sun goes down
And it won't cost me a thing at all
until the rent is due!

Track Listing:

  • Tube Timing Son of a Gun
    (available for download on Handy's web site)
  • Next Train to New Orleans
  • Missoula
  • Santa's Night Off
  • Breakfast at Bill's
  • Loaded
  • Porch Top Blues
  • Vote
  • The Happy Song
  • Finger Picker #44
  • The Senior Blues
  • Time Has Come To Go

Edited by David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society and David Schultz.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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