Songs From An Open Book

P /Down-Brando Records via Membran

You, dear listener, should know this man as singer and guitarist – not to mention songwriter with the band Blue October. On this live release he opts to perform stripped-down versions of their songs and to field questions from those attending, re the originals and context of the various compositions. Pretty brave
The recording engineer here is Eric Holz and the venue Uptown Studios, producer JF himself. His guitar accompaniment is measured and elegiac. His voice is slightly nasal, the songs quite haunting. His laconic comments about his life and songs quite captivating. But you’d have to be a real follower to enjoy this project fully, it must be said.
Memorable songs incude ‘The Answer’, ‘Can and Cannot Say’ pleads in a whisper that belies its starkness ; ‘Black Orchid’ sounds pretty in an Arthur Lee kind of way. Or even Bryan McLlean….
The close delivery of ‘Chameleon Boy’ is pretty creepy, to be frank. The stories and songs take a very dark path from quite early on, viz ‘The Apology’ and ‘Sound of Pulling Heaven Down’ but the shellshocked tenderness of ‘Fear’’ finds our man getting up and carrying on.
Occasionally the set evokes Neil Finn in a very sombre frame of mind, some of the melodies are gorgeous.
A dark journey, therapeutic for the originator I am sure –but not an easy listen for strangers to his work and story

Pete Sargeant