David Broza,
Painted Postcard
(Rounder, 2002)

I think one of the best -- and at the same time worst -- compliments that can be paid to a performer is that he or she sounds just like [fill in the blank]. David Broza falls into that category except that he has been compared to so many folks, one starts to wonder if he suffers from some sort of personality disorder. The list includes the likes of John Hiatt, Sting, Gipsy Kings, Gino Vanelli, Dire Straits, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel -- ad nauseum. However, I find Broza -- at least this compilation of his work -- very sexy, and I'm not ready to compare him to anyone else.

So what can you expect if you listen to Painted Postcard? Broza's style is a folk-, jazz- and flamenco-tinged acoustic rock. He's a strong guitar player and has an equally strong voice that's slightly raspy and very seductive. The claim on the CD cover is that this is his first bilingual recording, although his website discography lists a bilingual recording in Hebrew and Spanish issued in 1998. Tunes on Painted Postcard are in English and Hebrew, and all cuts appear at some point or another on at least one if not several previous recordings.

Broza's technique is to provide music using someone else's poetry for the lyrics, which is probably one of the reasons he seems to sing with so many different voices. The question then is, does the music fit the mood of the poem? I suppose only the author of the poem could say for sure, but I would have to say, for most of the songs, yes.

"Time of Trains (I Will Wait for You)" and "If You Don't Kiss Me," both in English, and "Painted Postcard" and "What Will You Do?" in Hebrew, are among the selections of romantic tunes where the music Broza has created is as romantic as the lyrics. "Painted Postcards" also showcases Broza's remarkable talent on the guitar in the nearly three-minute introduction. "Second Street" wistfully tells the story about a lost relationship in a beautifully seductive and wistful tone. "A Night in Wyoming" describes the dreary life of a rancher in a dreary landscape. The music is a slow, rock-like dirge that emphasizes the depressing side of that life.

There's an equal selection of energetic tunes with either a flamenco beat, as in "It is You," or a Latino beat, in "Chileno Boys," and even a disco sound, in "Hips to Hips," all of which are guaranteed to get your toes tapping and hips swinging.

"In Snow" (lyrics by Liam Rector) is one of those highly poetic kinds of poems. It begins "With the window sitting with you/And with glass, with air to see with/There I came with you to be with/Asking if and ever were," and just gets worse. It's certainly not my favorite Rector poem. The music that goes with it, however, starts as a slow classical tune, and builds into a jazzy instrumental, and saves the poem from the shadows of the gray winter afternoon and relationship it describes.

Only one song has a sound that belies its words -- "When I Didn't Have a Home." I read the poem before I listened to it, and it sounded so romantic. It's sung in Hebrew, but this is the translation of the first few lines -- "When I didn't have a home/You were my home/I lived in the hotel of your eyes." The sound, however, is fun, rowdy and country-western -- totally unexpected. "The Art of Losing (One Art)," also falls into the country-western genre, especially with the harmonies on the chorus, but the sound Broza has put with it works very well with the lyrics.

The liner notes have been prepared for English-speaking folks in that the lyrics in Hebrew have an English translation provided. However, there is no transliteration, so you'd have to know Hebrew if you can't make out the lyrics and want to sing along. Poets whose works provided the lyrics include Matthew Graham, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Yehonatan Geffen, Richard Sehm, Wyn Cooper, Elizabeth Bishop, Liam Rector, Alberto Rios and Meir Ariel.

- Rambles
written by Alanna Berger
published 7 December 2002

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