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One Thru Fourteen

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Album Review

Up until One Thru Fourteen, Vance Gilbert had never really seemed comfortable putting an album together in a studio. His first two efforts, Edgewise and Fugitives, stifled his flamboyant energy in wishy-washy folk-lite arrangements, and though his next two were significant improvements, they weren't really traditional studio records. (Somerville Live was a solo concert performance and Shaking Off Gravity was essentially a live album recorded in a studio.) But with One Thru Fourteen, Gilbert seems finally to have learned how to use rich instrumentation to enhance rather than enervate his free-wheeling charm. Gilbert may have taken his cue from Martin Sexton, another dynamic Boston folk performer with a funky attitude and the vocal chops to branch out seamlessly into R&B, soul, and rock. Like Sexton's The American, One Thru Fourteen employs numerous musicians and blazes through a dizzying array of popular music genres. Gilbert rocks out on "Juliana Walks," sings the blues on "Hard to Love," goes Motown on "Son of Someone's Son," and experiments with Latin flamenco pop on "Why Are We So Cruel?" Yet the record never suffers from multiple personality disorder, because it all flows so organically from Gilbert's personality. That's not to say there aren't flaws. The second half of the album is considerably softer, slower, and folkier than the first, and one can't help feeling that the energy should be more evenly distributed. Gilbert also compromises the freshness of the record by recycling gimmicks from previous albums. His Billie Holiday impression was funnier and more accurate on Somerville Live's "Imagination" than it is on the otherwise fine jazz number, "I'll Cry Too." And Gilbert's third glass-shattering a cappella ballad, "Let Me Know," is unlikely to impress listeners who've already heard "Spencer the Rover" and "Could You Believe." But One Thru Fourteen is still a tour de force and a truly exciting development in the career of an accomplished recording veteran.

Biography

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of many self-styled contemporary folk singers to have come on the scene in the 1980s, Vance Gilbert was inspired to begin writing his own material after hearing Shawn Colvin perform at a Boston theater. While Gilbert has become recognized on the folk festival circuit as a songwriter of substance, performance for him is second nature. Gilbert is not a middle-of-the-road folk singer, and his diverse set of influences includes Kenny Rankin, Roberta...
Full Bio
One Thru Fourteen, Vance Gilbert
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