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Bright Side of Down

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Album Review

Bright Side of Down is singer and songwriter John Gorka's first set of new studio material since 2009's So Dark You See. Once more produced by Rob Grenadek, it features his regular band and some well-known friends. Gorka's work has developed along a particular line over the last two decades. He pays close attention to the details in his craft — rhyme, musical economy, tight melodies — and whether what's in a song is true to it. "Holed Up in Mason City," with its shuffling meld of acoustic and electric guitars, brushed drums, and accordion, is about the fate of enduring a pre-season blizzard. Told in the first person, musically it owes a small debt to Richard Thompson, which is hardly a bad thing. Lucy Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson contribute harmonies to the melancholy title track. While it's a sad song, Gorka's protagonist never sounds as if he feels sorry for himself. "High Horse" is the reverse. He offers traces of bitter irony in the aftermath of a broken relationship and his protagonist intimates his health is failing while everything else is going to hell. Gorka expresses empathy for his character, but he's not necessarily buying it. He delivers a fine reading of Bill Morrissey's "She's That Kind of Mystery." With sparse accompaniment, Gorka finds the world-weariness in the author's intent, lets it come to the fore, and still manages to reveal the romantic magic in its core, thanks in part to Amilia Spicer's hovering backing vocal. Closer "Really Spring" is among the most tender songs that Gorka's written, with a simple four-chord figure framed by the spectral yet irrepressible harmony vocal of Antje Duvekot. It captures the wistfulness of spring's past and the longing for its arrival and renewal, and the knowing that knowing winter always has one last trick up its sleeve. Bright Side of Down should resonate with Gorka's fans and those of modern American folk music.

Customer Reviews

You can never go wrong with Gorka

My 2 year old will pick this album every time when you give him the choice....His daddy didn't hear "houses in the fields" till he was 14 years old...but were both in love with John's music. Simple, haunting, and so real you can touch it...Thanks for all of the albums, this one is also a keeper.

Sure & Steady

I have been a fan of John's for about 15 years, and finally over the last three years have had the change to see him live twice. The last time, he was previewing some songs from this album, and I immediately fell in love with this new music. John's lyrics always insightful, and sometimes downright hilarious. This album is pretty quiet. Outside of the toe tapping opener "Holed Up Mason City", this album is perhaps his most mellow, but the melodies are simply beautiful. If you like John's other stuff, do not hesitate in adding this one to your collection


Born: 1958 in Edison, NJ

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

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

A singer/songwriter famed for his rich, expressive baritone, New Jersey native John Gorka was one of the leading lights of the new folk movement. Gorka began his career while attending college in Pennsylvania in the early '80s, appearing at open-mike nights at a local coffeehouse before eventually forming his own group, the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. Soon he hit the road, performing up and down the Eastern Seaboard before finally settling in Texas and winning the Kerrville Folk Festival's prestigious...
Full Bio
Bright Side of Down, John Gorka
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