Folk Alley (Album Review): Steve Forbert, 'Early Morning Rain'

For his 2020 release, Early Morning Rain, songwriting virtuoso in his own right Steve Forbert, cannily selects 11 well-crafted folk and rock songs that have inspired him over the years. He says, “I recorded this album to renew people’s appreciation for the fine craftsmanship these songs represent and as an acknowledgment of how much good ‘ol songs like these have meant to me.” He’s joined on the album by George Naha on electric guitar, Rob Clores on keyboards, Aaron Comess on drums, John Conte on bass, Marc Muller on pedal steel; Anthony Crawford and Emily Grove provide backing vocals on several of the songs, and Richard Hammond plays bass on two songs. The album opens with a lithesome version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain”; Muller’s soaring pedal steel evokes the lonesome ache of the song, while Forbert’s swirling guitar strums capture the rhythms of life on the road. Forbert’s version perfectly portrays the ups and downs of the troubadour’s life. His take on Robert Hunter’s already somber beauty “Box of Rain” opens up the song as Naha and Muller stretch out on the instrumental break. There’s a Poco-like quality to Forbert’s version, and his up-tempo delivery adds an expansive and airy splendor to the tune. Forbert turns Elton John’s “Your Song” into a heart-rending plea of desire and love; it’s more tentative than the original, but the tentativeness captures the often-halting and ragged way we fall in love and the reluctance with which we sometimes express our love to another person. The interplay between guitar and piano creates a wear-it-on-my-sleeve atmosphere missing in the original. Forbert delivers a straight-ahead rocker in his version of the Kinks’ “Supersonic Rocket Ship,” recalling the liveliness of his stage shows and the skittering propulsiveness of his “Romeo’s Tune,” while his sparsely delivered “Someday Soon” mimics the promise of love and the conflicts that it can cause. Forbert’s distinctive vocals, and his singular acoustic guitar chops, create a spacious sonic atmosphere through which the fresh breezes of his versions of the songs waft. Every song on Early Morning Rain reveals facets of Forbert’s love of a good song, and his ability to dwell in a song, to find its distinctive elements, and to make the song his own. On Early Morning Rain, Forbert honors these songs, even as he has fun delivering his own innovative versions of them. Early Morning Rain' is available HERE.
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