David Falcone,
Behind Your Eyes
(County Clare, 2001)

David Falcone is a wonderful guitarist whose playing equals and often surpasses many better-known fingerstyle artists. His deft touch pulls stories from the strings in wordless tales of inspired nuance, shifting rhythms and tempos -- all with flawless accuracy and a soulful feel.

Unfortunately, the incredible artistry that Falcone demonstrates as an instrumentalist does not extend to three out of the four singer-songwriter offerings on "Behind Your Eyes." It's not that he's a one-trick pony as a performer. Falcone's cover of Cat Steven's "Sad Lisa" demonstrates that he is a competent singer, and "Lullaby for Lauren," the last self-composed song on this CD, is a perfectly nice example of the songwriter's craft.

My problem with his other three compositions is the lyrics. The only thing that was clear to me after listening to these cuts was that Falcone was writing about failed relationships between men and women, and that he was trying to maintain sensitivity to gender issues while venting some pretty intense emotions. At least that's what I think he was driving at. When I listen to a song, I expect to be able to understand it -- especially after I've spun it on my CD player three or four times. However, with the exception of the above-mentioned "Lullaby for Lauren," I remained puzzled by certain of Falcone's words. The songwriting ideas are basically sound, and I don't mean to imply that Falcone is engaging in any intellectual dishonesty. The problem is that his poetry is simply too cryptic. If anything, the quality of his guitar playing adds to the confusion, because it is so good that the listener's attention is focused on his instrumental brilliance rather than the meaning he tries to convey in the lyrics.

An example of cryptic lyrics that don't convey any meaning to me is found in a verse of "She Don't Need Me Anymore," a lament about a relationship gone sour. Falcone starts out with a solid foundation consisting of a nice melody supported by his flawless guitar accompaniment. But for me, this song stumbles when it reaches a series of lyrics whose only redeeming qualities (at least as far as I can tell) are that they continue the rhyme-scheme:

"I don't know where or when, or what went wrong
Sometimes short, sometimes long
Sometimes weak and sometimes strong
She don't need me anymore."

For listeners who appreciate fine fingerstyle guitar playing, I can recommend this CD on the strength of the instrumental cuts alone, and fortunately there are far more of these than singer-songwriter cuts. The guitar-only pieces are gorgeous, lush creations of the highest caliber. For listeners who don't pay too much attention to lyrics (or can ignore them) Falcone's voice is pleasant if not distinctive. But the flaws in the story-telling brings the level of the performance down, reminiscent of a report card with eleven A+ grades marred by three Ds. I think my biggest complaint about this CD comes from having found these flaws in a work that is otherwise so brilliant that it is close to perfection.

[ by Tim O'Laughlin ]
Rambles: 27 July 2002