Andi Hoffman & B-Goes,
Living in the Big Wide World
(BTW, 2002)

Andi Hoffman & B-Goes are the musical equivalent of Teflon. Listen to Living in the Big Wide World and see if you can assign any one, two, heck, three styles to their sound. Roots rock, calypso, Cajun, reggae, zydeco, alt country -- this list could take up the whole review. You know what -- forget about labeling the style. The only label that fits is cool. They're doing their own thing and it's great.

Each song has its own merit -- expect no filler songs on this album. The songs vary in speed and (obviously) style, but all are fun. "I See It In Your Eyes" kicks the album off with a cool funky guitar chord. "El Rancho Hotel" is one of those ramblin' songs -- you feel like you're in a convertible on an open desert road (a la David Lynch's Wild at Heart). "Crystal Waters" sounds like a tribute to the Grateful Dead or Phish. "I Liebe Di Fuer Immer" shows that Cajun/zydeco influence both vocally and instrumentally. If only I knew what they were saying.... "Fingertips" is a delightful song with a great pace and a catchy chorus that is absolutely addictive.

"Living in the Big Wide World" is a complex song that operates on multiple layers. The key to this song is the simplicity of each of its elements. The instrumental tone, a straightforward melody, is overlaid with a speech by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life." Andi's vocals are woven somewhere in-between the two. He keeps his voice pretty even keel for the song and lets the lyrics anchor the in-between points the speech excerpts. This song is a fine display of artistry.

Another well-composed song, "Kangaroo Cafˇ," has a segmental approach in lieu of layers. It starts off with a solitary and slow Andi, then is joined with great harmony vocals and a faster pace. Towards the end of the song, the melody slowly transforms into the classic tune "Blue Moon." "Kangaroo Cafˇ" is another fine example of the cool details this group puts into each song.

I can't say enough good things about this album. Living in the Big Wide World is one of those rare albums where everything fits together into an eccentric (but cool) puzzle. Whether it's the wonderfully subtle instrumentation of the B-Goes, the multi-layered feel, Andi's original voice, little compositional details or the well-written lyrics, you've got a magnificent collection of songs with superb performances.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 6 April 2003

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