Before Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and others developed the big arena moribundities that brought success but stripped them empty of artistic integrity, they made music that was like this: honest, from the heart, and poetic, carrying the wide open airs of the mid-West all the way to New York City and beyond. In Of the Fall, Brian Molnar combines all that with the unusual strains of a Graham Parker or perhaps an Elvis Costello who decided not to be so angular, reaching for melodics rather than raw emotion. The iconic cover photo (shot by Dan McBride, expertly arranged by Amy Kartman) captures the essence of the CD: a white hat troubadour on the high plains caught between the lonesome prairie and a clatterous Big City just over the horizon.
Molnar sings, writes, and plays acoustic guitar, but he made a dead perfect choice in Travis Miscia, who plies keyboards that round everything out. Miscia possesses as uncanny a knack in colorations as Molnar has in front and center folk presence…and Molnar himself, along with Todd Lanka and engineer Mike Olear, captained the mixing duties with a finesse hard to come by, especially in cuts like When You Couldn't Walk the Line, though any number of tracks are deceptively wrought, exercises that would make even Lindsey Buckingham beam in envy and admiration. Listening to Fall makes me want to revisit Harry Chapin, Don McLean, Tom Rapp, and that whole era where this sound was birthed.
Molnar's too young to have been of that age but, man, does he ever live it. Treading the midnight highway dividing line between country and the Ash Grove, he evokes a turning point just before everything changed and too much got lost. The moody Movin' Down the Road, a duet with Amanda Shires, is a bittersweet affair caught between joy and lament, made all the more poignant by Shires' smoothly laconic fiddle. Taking his cue from Walt Whitman throughout the disc, in Leaves of Grass he intones that 'Understanding can be like a curse', recalling Ecclesiastes' ominous cautionary about enlightenment ("With much knowledge comes much sorrow") while observing the ironies, joys, and aches that human life comes ineradicably accompanied by.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles