Bruce Piephoff,
Hard Times for Dreamers
(Flyin' Cloud, 2003)

Hard Times for Dreamers is a great set of story-songs that are worth a close listen. Bruce Piephoff has written a collection of works here that give us a snapshot of social history in the new millennium.

The title track could be a crossover hit if it got the airplay or was picked up by a star name. Looking at the changes in economic circumstances and the effects on real people, it is a poignant reminder of life. With lines like "I've been chasing after shadows from the cradle to the hearse," he takes his place among the top lyricists of the genre.

"Brother Daryl went crazy, I went to Tennessee" is the great hook opening the track called "Daryl." The song delivers well on the promise of those words in a tale of brotherly love, which is tested by the illness of one of them. As he sings "some folks sit in judgement some sit on skid row."

"That Don't Stop the Train" is a song in that old tradition of collecting a series of clichˇs and, by setting them in order and to music, the performer can become an urban philosopher. We are all hypnotised by words and familiar phrases. Add that lovely harmonica intro and you have a fabulous song.

Just as we lie back into a CD that we see as a series of songs that seem to fit a pattern, Piephoff jolts us with a song that seems to buck the trend but turns out to be one of the gems of this great CD. "Great White's Flight" takes us into the sea and the world of ecology as he sings with genuine feeling about the sea creatures "great creatures in the house of God do glide."

Then we are back in the land of nostalgia with "Fat Chalk Cat" as he recalls his childhood and the drifters and life in earlier times with "hobos who would linger round the fire with the songs they sang." We get our useful dose folklore from the title. This was the drawing made on the sidewalk outside the house to indicate that a house was home to someone who would help a passing hobo. There is a tingly ghost story ending to the tale.

"Burgundy Buick" is a spoken-word piece that sounds just right in the middle of the CD. "Gil Barber's Blues" is a personal favourite, with driving guitar and a story to hold the attention. It reminds me of the protest and social comment songs of Kristofferson. "Why did Gil Barber die, who shot him down and why?" I would love to know if this is a generic tale or if was there a Gil Barber. Sadly, Bruce does not provide background to the songs.

After the trip to the ocean we are back on dry land with a thud for "Sing Behind the Plow." This is another top-class track that could take off with the required exposure. Bruce shows his diversity of styles again with "Myrtle Beach Rag," a short guitar piece that gets the toes tapping and brings a satisfied smile to the lips.

This 12-track CD is one of those albums that may be difficult to find but it is well worth the effort. The tracks might not be given national airplay and a big name might not decide to cover them. Then you will be the loser because you will not have heard the excellent writing and production on Hard Times for Dreamers.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 3 May 2003