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Phoenix Envy

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Album Review

Andrew Calhoun's fourth album (the second for his own Waterbug Records) is little different from his previous releases. The Chicago-based folksinger performs solo with acoustic guitar (Andrew Bird adds violin to one track, the lovely "Here Comes That Lady Again"), and his style is akin to that of the late Steve Goodman. Although Calhoun can be deeply earnest, as on the opening "Time," a streak of wry humor more often informs his work. This takes the form of both skewed character studies like the oddball "Sparrow" and more overtly comic material like the ironic singalong "Folksingers Are Boring" ("Folksingers have flabby buns/They all play the same bass runs/They're against the private ownership of handguns"). These songs, which were composed over a 20-year stretch, are a varied, and unfortunately variable, lot. The earlier material, as is often the case with songs by young folksingers, sounds a bit derivative and tends to strain for effect. The more recent material shows that Calhoun has found his own voice. At 21 songs in 72 minutes, however, the monochromatic voice and guitar performances are rather tiring on the ears. Some more varied arrangements, a severely trimmed running order, and possibly some more live tracks like "Boring" and the charming "Narnia Song" would make Phoenix Envy a much more interesting album.


Born: 30 November 1957

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

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

Sensitive lyricism is set to gentle, acoustic melodies by Chicago-based singer/songwriter and record company owner/producer Andrew Calhoun. Influenced by early John Prine, Leonard Cohen and Martin Carthy, Calhoun brings a poetic approach to his unique style of songwriting. Although he continues to perform and record as a soloist, Calhoun has expressed his love of acoustic music as much through his record label, Waterbug Records, which has released more than forty albums by such artists as Chuck...
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Phoenix Envy, Andrew Calhoun
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