Brian Gladstone,
Psychedelic Pholk Psongs
(self-produced, 2001)

As he intones the zippy "I Like Me," guitar-picker extraordinaire Brian Gladstone reveals that he really does enjoy his own company. And he's likeable for the rest of us as well. This is a man who fights for the environment, who wouldn't torture himself with a low-carb diet and who believes in the "healing force" in music.

On Psychedelic Pholk Psongs, the Toronto-based singer-songwriter's offerings are sometimes quirky, sometimes silly, sometimes satirical, ranging from the tongue-in-cheek self-portrait "Asphalt Cowboy" to the sweet "A Father's Lullaby" to the scathing "Do You Think You're Dorothy?"

The vocals are uneven, reminiscent of Dylan, hinting of both good and bad days. When the vocals work, such as on "Save the Wolverine," a plea to rescue the forests, the cut comes together with a fresh intensity. This song features harmonies with Daisy DeBolt and John Kolenko on accordion. On "Orange Juice Song" and several other cuts, Bonnie Gladstone joins the mix with a harmony that brings Mama Cass to mind. Brian's scourging of former friend "Jamie Lynn" reverberates with anger that remains in one's memory and features a sizzling harmonica melody from Sazacha Redsky.

Brian's finger-picked guitar tunes and interludes within the songs are stand-outs throughout the album. There's an energy suggesting the great Doc Watson. And Brian assembled some fine players to complement his style, including flautist Ron Korb, percussionist Maureen Brown, Ralph Hassel on bass, Tony Quarrington on additional guitars, banjo and mandolin, and Frank Barth on dobro.

The liner notes are extensive, featuring all of the lyrics plus nine pages of insight into the songs, personal history, musical inspirations and philosophy written by Linda East Brady. There's also a couple of pages explaining how writer Gary Tate was once "mystified by Brian Gladstone's music," and Gladstone is admittedly an acquired taste that continues to mystify. I'm still pondering the "healing force" concept and the proliferation of cowboys throughout these songs. I'm sure there's a connection somewhere. In the meantime, "Peace, Brian. Ride on."

- Rambles
written by Julie Bowerman
published 21 February 2004

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