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Strange Names & New Sensations

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Album Review

Nearly 30 years after Steve Forbert established himself as a singer/songwriter to watch, his muse doesn't appear to be contacting him as often as it once did, and while there was a three-year layoff between 2007's Strange Names and New Sensations and his previous album, the results suggests Forbert was hard-put to come up with something to say during the preceding 36 months. While "The Baghdad Dream" is a potent and passionate anti-war number, beyond that Forbert sounds most engaged on "Strange Names (North New Jersey's Got 'Em)," a would-be novelty number which tries to wring laughs out of the existence of towns like Ho-ho-kus, Hackensack, and Cheesequake, and there's something a bit troubling about hearing Forbert trying to compete with the likes of Christine Lavin, especially since he doesn't sound that comfortable with the notion. Aging and loss dominate much of Strange Names and New Sensations (not hard to understand since Forbert turned 50 during the gap between albums), but "Middle Age" and "Thirty More Years" don't have much new or compelling to say about every person's war against time, and "Simply Spalding Gray," while obviously well-intentioned, sounds more like an obituary than an attempt to explore the tragedy of Gray's suicide. And it doesn't bode well that Forbert can't wring more drama or passion from his relationship with God ("I Will Sing Your Praise") than his musings over a girl he loves in New Jersey ("My Seaside Brown-Eyed Girl") — or that he pads out this set with an instrumental ("Around the Bend") and a new recording of his biggest hit ("Romeo's Tune"). As a performer, Forbert still has charm and warmth to share, but Strange Names and New Sensations doesn't bode well for the future of Forbert as a tunesmith.

Biography

Born: 13 December 1954 in Meridian, MS

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Anointed "the new Dylan" upon his recording debut, folk-rock singer/songwriter Steve Forbert was born in Meridian, MS, in 1954. After learning guitar at age 11, he spent his high school years playing in a variety of local bands before quitting his job as a truck driver and moving to New York City at the age of 21. There, he performed for spare change in Grand Central Station before working his way up to the Manhattan club circuit. After signing to Nemperor, Forbert debuted in 1978 with Alive on Arrival,...
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