a.k.a. George,
Two Tone Throwback
(Hive Music, 2000)

a.k.a. George has a sandpaper rough edge to their sound, and while it may take a moment to get used to it, the music will pull you in if you let it. Two Tone Throwback is worth the time it may take to become accustomed to the sound. The music is good, with most of the sandpaper edge coming through in the vocals. And the lyrics, too, but we will get to that later.

There are only six people who play instruments on the CD and two of them only play on one or two tracks. The musicians you hear most of the time are Ron Keyes (guitars, vocals, harmonica and fine woodworking), Catherine Hechmer (electric bass, upright bass, vocals, saxophone and Hammond organ), Mary Lou Reid (mandolin, vocals and hand percussion) and Jeff Lefebvre (drums). The other two who join in briefly are Dave Nichols (mandolin on "Elitist Friends") and Jeff Oehler (organ on "The Road Most Traveled" and percussion on "Rockin' Chair").

It starts in the dark edges to the poetry of "Look Away" and "Shame." Both have the morbid and strange images that show up often in the socio-political side of modern folk. The images may be their own, by the feel remains the same. While these songs are good, they are not the best one the CD. The best often comes when the images slide closer to home, as in "Just a Letter," a simply worded message from a wayward son. The words of someone far from home, hoping to be heard. The travelling continues is "The Road Most Traveled" with the words of an empty man hoping for love.

Things change a gear for a bit, with a song about a girl in "Melanie Said." Then comes a look at the strange frailty and strength of love in "Another Corner." "High School" is a yell of anger, a wake-up call to bring someone back here and now.

"Piece of Blue" is one of the strong points on the CD. An interesting collage of images with a bittersweet edge, carried on a softly played, well-crafted tune. They put a touch of something elusively familiar in "Rockin' Chair," and I wish I could find the words to explain it. The words hide it but it keeps sliding out in the melody.

The CD ends with a slice of life and one last angry message. The first is in "Vague Reflections," the latter in "Elitist Friends."

All in all, Two Tone Throwback is worth listening to, and while it might seem like it should feel dark, it does not. So when the mood strikes you take the time to listen to this slice of folk from a.k.a. George.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

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