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Busy Being Born

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Album Review

Accomplished guitarist Gary Lucas sends listeners on a multicolored carousel of "songs for children." He marches Jewish fight song singalongs, strums out Marx Brothers' tunes, and fingerpicks delicate acoustic originals. Busy Being Born includes great slide guitar; a Fiddler on the Roof tune; a traditional tune about turning clay into a dreydel done Ritchie Valens style; and what Lucas calls "an anti-lullaby" with a narrative reminiscent of Nick Cave's from-the-depths voice that's sure to frighten kids in a delicious way. Recommended for old and young alike. In all, the album is a rare, successful combination of silly kid-appeal and adult-sized ability, wrapped around a tweaked eccentricity that only the stodgy couldn't enjoy.

Customer Reviews

Lifting Me Higher and Higher...

For me this is Gary Lucas' album masterpiece. Skeleton at the Feast, with its hard-edged flocks of feedback notes and whirling dervish delays that let Lucas become his own orchestra, is very close behind. But Here Lucas' touch is unerring---both his touch on the strings and frets of his chosen instrument (or, perhaps more accurately, his chosen material language) and in his choice of material and the tone he assigns each piece. At age 6, my daughter was trying to sing along with the Hebrew "Jewish fight song" Adon Olom, caught by its simultaneous go-for-broke catchiness and spooky undertow. One of the trickiest things for an artist to do "these days" is to present straight forward emotionalism without embarrassment or distracting flakes of corn. If Lucas' shimmering arrangement of "Sunrise, Sunset"---one so personal we can hear the whorls of his fingerprints as he coaxes the notes into the shapes he desires---if this doesn't swell your heart your ventricles are in need of a coffin. "Theme from Exodus" is nearly as good . . . but Lucas is also an adept in the mysteries of aural psychology, and in "Abie the Fishman" (the title from a bit in an old Marx Brothers movie) the self-immolation of denying one's identity bursts into atonal flame and crashes against our ears like the sound of Robert Johnson's hail falling on the denizens of Gomorrah. And, heck, some of the pieces here ("The Mensch in the Moon" and "A Hundred Pounds of Clay," for example) are downright funny as well! I know of no album I would, or could, recommend more highly. It lifts me higher and higher with each listening.


Born: 1952 in Syracuse, NY

Genre: Alternative

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

When Gary Lucas was nine, his dad suggested he take up playing the guitar. Although he followed his dad's suggestion, Lucas focused more on the French horn that he played for his elementary-school band, and continued to play that instrument until getting kicked out of his high-school band. Lucas then focused wholly on the guitar, and played in various groups throughout the '60s. As a campus station music director during his second year at Yale, Lucas saw Captain Beefheart in concert and immediately...
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Busy Being Born, Gary Lucas
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