Thursday, May 25, 2006

sail away review

my review of Sail Away: The Songs of Randy Newman is up today at Cleveland Scene.

what follows is what we'll call the director's cut:

Sail Away: The Songs of Randy Newman
Various Artists
(Sugar Hill)

by Rob Trucks

For many, Randy Newman resides as the sardonic voice of Southern California, a Hollywood icon with multitudinous Oscar nominations for songs like “I Love to See You Smile” (Parenthood) and “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” (Toy Story). Those with longer memories might pair Newman with that vehicular celebration of the left coast, “I Love L.A.,” or the politically correct backwash which followed the tide of his “Short People” success.” That is, until a reprise of his thirty-year-old tune, “Louisiana 1927,” and its devastating chorus “they’re trying to wash us away,” became the unwitting soundtrack to Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

And if “Louisiana” reminded the nation of Newman’s broader reach, then Sail Away drives the point home by expanding into Americana like Manifest Destiny. Multiple artists (Sonny Landreth, The Duhks, Bela Fleck and Steve Earle to name but a few) employ multiple styles (blues, folk, bluegrass and alt-country respectively), drawing the work away from the wry, piano-based observer and reconstructing it with banjos and mandolins and slide guitars, further staking (as if there was any question) Randy Newman’s claim as one of this country’s premier songwriters, without restriction of geography or genre.

(I really kinda liked the "expanding into Americana like Manifest Destiny" line)

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