Describing Rick Malsick's voice as existing "somewhere between Tom Waits and Foghorn Leghorn", a baritone register not too often heard, isn't very far from the mark. More, he favors a clipped mode that never rides a note out, so flavors of Leonard Cohen enter the equation with a Leon Redbone echo. That style sits atop a two-man band—Evan Smalley, a multi-instrumentalist, is his partner—simul-synched for a very together full band sound (this Smalley guy is a subtle character with as much a gravelly sense of humor as his counterpart). Malsick's likewise a gent not content to remain on one axe, wielding guitar, banjo, bass, and synthesizer. He ranges the chart stylistically as well, from the energetic smoothness of Calico, my favorite track, to the crunch rock of Money Dancer.
The lyrics concern themselves mostly with the ordinary, sometimes in a vein similar to David Rovik and Jefferson Parsons (here)—first fun, then serious, next objecting to injustice (Money Dancer addresses a stripper's dilemma), sometimes boastful (the humorous I Race a Canoe, a John Henry-ish ditty), but always with the attitude of a guy who's been not just there, but there and there and there. Then we have the Kottke-esque The Christmas Tumbleweed, a Civilian Conservation Corps-era tale of hope and happiness amid poverty.
CDs like this always stay in my permanent collection, examples of really good DIY efforts that the pro's couldn't produce even if they wanted to, little gems of Everyman creativity and art full of heart and down home warmth. And of course there are always the strange cuts that speak for me when I can't for myself, tunes like Insomniac's Lullaby, a Nick Cave-ish ode to sleeplessness wrought with reassuring memories and a promise. Or even a cut like the Mediterranean Dionysus, fealty to the grape and its pleasures, a tune that even at this moment inspires me to lift a carafe and glass in salute, so if you'll excuse me…
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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