Bob Schneider,
(Universal, 2000)

Usually when I write a review, I have no trouble pigeon-holing the band or artist. Celtic is Celtic, country is pretty distinctive, etc. But now I am sitting here reviewing Bob Schneider and his album Lonelyland and I am having a hard time categorizing this guy. His music is quite diverse. When all is said and done, he is rather talented. But Rambles doesn't have a section marked "talented."

Here is a man who was born in Ypsilanti, MI, but grew up in Germany with his father, who also happens to be a lifelong musician. Bob says that his biggest musical influence was when he was a 10-year-old fledgling drummer. The senior Schneider "would dress him in a leisure suit and take him along to moonlight jobs where they would perform hits from the '40s through the '70s."

Bob now resides in Austin, Texas. As most people in Texas know, Austin is quite the happening place for music. Those familiar with the Austin scene might recognize some of the local acts that Bob fronted for over the years -- Joe Rockhead (a funk band), Ugly Americans (who toured with Dave Matthews at one point) and The Scabs (a "full-throttle" party band). Bob swept the 2000 Austin Music Awards, winning nine awards due to his talents as a singer/songwriter.

Lonelyland starts out with the catchy radio tune "Metal and Steel." This song is mellow "alternative" college-type music with guitars and light keyboards. I really like it and can hear the mass appeal of the tune. "Big Blue Sea" is of similar ilk and might lead one to think that they have the timbre of this album down. That is when Bob throws you with the bizarre song "Jingy," a kind of a funk-based tune that took a while to grow on me, but now I like it more than most of the other works on the CD. Oh! Jingy is the monkey on Bob's back. Need I say more?

"Bullets" wins the quirky lyrics award for this CD. As best as I can make out, the chorus of this funk-based, horn-filled tune goes something like, "You got bullets, I got time. You bring the bullets. I'll bring the wine. You bring the bullets, I'll bring my bat 'cause I can tell you where it is, but I can't tell you where it's at." And strange as that sounds, I have so far been unsuccessful trying not to bounce to the beat and singing along every time I hear "Bullets" played.

"Round and Round" is another radio tune. If I heard this on the radio, I would have thought it was a new Paul Simon song. One of the better tunes on the CD, with cool guitar playing, it evokes feelings of being near the ocean because of the Calypso beat combined with some African (I am guessing here) backing vocals towards the end. "Moon Song" is another tropical beach song but now I think of Jimmy Buffet. (Maybe I just need a vacation.)

While Bob sounds nothing like Sting, "Madeline" sounds like it could be on one of Sting's recent CDs. It has a little bit of a jazzy flavor. "Blue Skies For Everyone" is dominated by what sounds like a banjo. This is a fun tune that is very reminiscent of Tom Waits (if you use your imagination a little). "Oklahoma" is the only song I am not too thrilled with on Lonelyland. At more than seven minutes, it is little too long. (Just because I live in Texas, I am not biased againsts Oklahoma. Honest!)

As you can tell, this CD does not have one distinctive style, although it leans more towards alternative rock than folk. Bob explores many different genres as he showcases his talents as a musician and songwriter. I get the impression from the CD that Bob is more of a live act. As good as the CD is, I bet that he is even better when performing in public. As good as this CD is, I am going to recommend you put it on your list of CDs to acquire in the near future.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 15 September 2001

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