Song Like This
Little Gems of Storytelling Glory, (09/13/04) This wonderful CD from Austinite Foscoe Jones (though his name Foscoe seems to come from a place in North Carolina) is chock full of staggering songwriting talent. Most of these literate story-telling songs are wrapped in a Country/hard-Folkish color that works splendidly. One of those most wonderful things about this CD is that it has so many levels. You are listening along thinking 'well isn't that nice,' but beneath any level of pleasant listening there is often flat-out brilliant lyricizing at work that makes you realize this fellow sure as hell isn't just another run-of-the-mill songwriter. The opening title cut launches with some sweetly jangling guitar licks and gives us our first evidence that Mr. Jones is in full possession of knowing how special is this song. The background music is excellently mixed and doesn't cover Mr. Jones' subtle vocalizing of lyrics as wonderfully picture-painting as ' ... my mom's car had a bad tape player/I bought an old guitar with my own money ...'. Mr. J's voice perhaps might not be some soaringly sweeping instrument, but his vocals are rife with irony, charm, and so much warmth that nearly every 'story' in each of these songs brings to mind what Bruce Springsteen would be if he was southern and quieter. (Also brought to mind is a bunch of wonderful, less bombastic versions of Brian Adams' 'Summer of 69.') The homey sweetness and brilliant musicianship continue on the quicker beat of 'Old School Friends,' which has so many lyrics coming at you at such a fast pace that you will welcome the necessity to have to listen to this song multiple times to catch all the meaningful words. A clangingly beautiful banjo color launches 'King of Small Town' before Mr. J shows us another excellent color in the palette of his voice as he evocatively starts to actually wail a little bit in simple, yet marvelous lyrics like, 'Back Roads/redneck/short hair/late night') 'Stereo Receiver' takes us into a moodier, Pop kind of vein with some excellent mixed hissing hi-hat work from John Arredondo especially evoking a fantastic color which Mr. Jones sets his vocals against communicating some more mood-setting lyrics like 'the air smells like tortillas and Mexican perfume.' 'The Least You Could Do' gives us even more of this fellow's dandy wordplay -- 'I've been thinking too much and breathing in second-hand smoke' -- this time with some unique chord voicings (and even more expert production work in the vocal mixings) that gives the music of this song a rare and charming beauty. A more straightforwardly Country set of fine picking sort out the ironic joy of 'Oh Oh OH' -- which is actually a pleading song of forgiveness, but is one of the toe-tappiest songs on the disc. Big kudos to Richard Bowden's lovely and lovingly played violin countermelody and the production team here for mixing it so wonderfully. 'Mr. Insensitive' has drum upbeats that lend this killer song a Bluesier depth and this time Mr. Jones' malleable and fantastic voice almost sounds like a Country Bob Dylan. The almost Jazz swagger of 'Painting on a Smile' grabs you ear and doesn't let go. 'Bound To change' features a thrilling cool fiddle and hi-hat build in another masterpiece of evocative word play ('the music was too loud/it didn't sound like music/it just sounded like sound'). And the final cut, a traveling tune called 'Breakup-Homeless,' has some devastating harmonies, mixed, sung, and played so wonderfully to give a wonderful end to this wonderful disc. Ten of these dozen cuts are so wonderful that the things that didn't work for me (usually production experiments, which I certainly applaud because I'd much rather hear something 'odd' that didn't quite work for me than be bore.) definitely stuck out. For the song 'Thanksgiving,' which on paper has very straightforward and touching lyrics, I didn't really get the phone call dub and the fact that this song seemingly has about 46 tempos. And 'A Moment''s bizarre trumpet lick and electronic goom-gah noises at the beginning along with some of the only wanderingly nebulous lyrics on this marvelous disc was the only song that just flat-out lost me. It's rare that a CD with two songs that stuck out like this to me would have such a marginal effect on my rating, but this man's talent is so gigantic and the whole effect of this album is so heartening, like a big hug outside in the cold, that even what didn't work for me on this album still possesses a 'specialness.' Mr. Jones is a talent to be reckoned with and he's surrounded himself with phenomenal production people and with this seemingly being his first major release I am incredibly excited to see what he will have to offer next time! P. Kellach Waddle is a senior contributing editor at FolkWax.