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Songs of War and Peace

Frank Pahl

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Album Review

Basically, it took George W. Bush to pull Frank Pahl out of his music for dance and theater productions and drag him back to songwriting. So, fans of Only a Mother, rejoice, because the man is in fine form indeed, turning in an opus at least as strong as In Cahoots. He has lined up his banjos, ukuleles, euphoniums, and automatons for a handful of witty protest songs. As usual, arrangements are shaky by design, providing each song with a "misfit toy" kind of charm. Pahl plays almost everything himself, but he has enrolled fellow protesters Eugene Chadbourne (singing lead vocals on "Drain"), bassist Joel Peterson, and violinist Mary Richards for a few songs each. The album begins with "Scarred Mangled Spanner," an a cappella reading of the National Anthem reset to lyrics by Ian Bedford, actually a list of American corporations (the first line becomes: "Esso KFC, IBM Miller Lite"). The tone now established, Pahl moves on to "Rotten Corpse," one of his typical ramshackle songs, a highlight. "Angels" and "No Brainers" are also particularly noteworthy. A protest song album would not be complete without tributes paid to the tradition, and so we are treated to a fair rendition of Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" and a moving instrumental take on Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore" (featuring Chadbourne on banjo). Songs of War and Peace concludes on an unexpected heart-wrenching moment in "Far Tangled Manner," another variation on "The Star-Spangled Banner," this one played in minor key on a prepared piano that sounds like a broken music box, ending on a sad, unresolved chord that figuratively asks a very painful question about the land of the free and the home of the brave. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Biography

Born: 11 February 1958 in Trenton, MI

Genre: Music

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A true original, composer/musician/sound artist Frank Pahl spent his musical career in the underground, amassing a small cult following. Whether with his groups Only a Mother and the Scavenger Quartet or playing solo, he charms his public with lovely avant-garde melodies played on an impressive array of neglected acoustic instruments and homemade automatons. When he decides to write lyrics, they take the form of bittersweet stories. His music allies a naïve simplicity and a tasteful touch of amateurism...
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Songs of War and Peace, Frank Pahl
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