Josh Lederman
y Los Diablos,
The Town's Old Fair
(Nine Mile, 2004)

Though I've never been there, I am told by those who have that the Boston folk scene long ago evolved (or -- depending on your point of view -- devolved) into the Boston singer-songwriter scene. Little that I have heard of it has impressed me much. Josh Lederman is, yes, a singer-songwriter. But from the evidence of this recording, he's one of the good ones, and I suspect that the sainted Bostonian forefolk -- the immortals Tom Rush, Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, Eric von Schmidt and the like -- would approve.

Lederman has a way with words, and he is funny with what ordinarily would comprise the stuff of seriously downbeat. The drunken-lunatic rant of "I've Been Down So Long" staggers all over the place, seeming about to fall on its face at any moment, but somehow lurching into a loser's idea of contentment as "just a boozer, sleeping past the dawn every day." Behind him Dixieland horns squawk to perfect comic effect.

"Well the Days Go By," on the other hand, celebrates enduring love without a trace of sentimental ickiness, just rock 'n' roll and wry reflection on the years' long march. "Daisy" is a beautiful, sadder meditation on the same theme, and it's my favorite cut. It would fit nicely stuck between "She Belongs to Me" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" on Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home. Tunes like these make sorrow feel downright enjoyable.

Lederman's acoustic guitar, almost always up front in the mix, leads the way, and behind him and it the splendid Los Diablos -- who, it says here, originally intended (their name notwithstanding) to be an "Irish wedding band" -- evoke what the listener begins to spin into visions of rain and wind sweeping over a desolate landscape. The songs themselves bring to life an autumnal world dotted with saloons, highways, woods, trains and ramshackle towns, where leaves fall and couples fall desperately in and out of love. Think of the Pogues, the Flatlanders and Steve Earle (in his apolitical mode) as New Englanders. Tall company, true, but you'll swear that Josh Lederman y Los Diablos have an inch or two on the competition. The Town's Old Fair, in other words, is not your usual singer-songwriter crap. Why aren't these guys famous?

- Rambles
written by Jerome Clark
published 9 October 2004