Jeffrey Foucault,
Stripping Cane
(Signature Sounds, 2004)

When it comes to up-and-coming artists who combine folk and blues, Jeffrey Foucault is about as good as it gets. His music has gotten the attention of veterans like Greg Brown and Chris Smither, and after one listen to Stripping Cane, his second CD, it's easy to understand why.

Growing up in Wisconsin and now living in western Massachusetts, Foucault's early musical influences were artists like John Prine and Townes Van Zandt. His songs are like a picture of the American heartland, ranging from a murder ballad to songs about weary lovers and cowboys. He writes with a level of maturity that you might not expect from someone in his 20s. The arrangements are simple and spare, and feature some great guitar, mandolin and banjo playing by both Foucault and David Goodrich. We can also hear influences from Kelly Joe Phelps and Chris Smither, both in his guitar and rich voice.

Stripping Cane opens with "Cross of Flowers," written from the perspective of someone returning to the small town they have fond memories of. "Mayfly" sounds like it could be a Chris Smither song with some great blues guitar. "Doubletree" is the murder ballad, which includes some harmony vocals by Peter Mulvey, who lends his distinctive vocals to several tracks along with fellow New Englanders, Kris Delmhorst and Anita Suhanin.

One of the CD's best songs is the title track, which combines a great folk blues melody with thoughtful beautiful lyrics like we would expect from someone like Greg Brown. "Pearl Handled Pistol" takes a nostalgic look at the old American West. On "Northbound 35" we can picture a train ride and a possible shaky relationship. "4&20 Blues" has a great country-blues-gospel feel to it with some great slide guitar. "Don't Look for Me" also has a country-blues melody that looks at the end of a relationship.

The only cover is the John Fogerty song "Lodi," which fits in nicely with the CD's central theme of trying to pry sweetness from an unforgiving source.

Jeffrey Foucault is quickly establishing himself as an artist to pay attention to, with very impressive songwriting that include good melodies and beautiful lyrics that tell great stories. Combined with great guitar playing, that makes this an exceptionally good CD.

- Rambles
written by Dave Townsend
published 23 April 2005

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