Artie Tobia, |
(Red Tail Hawk, 2001)
Artie Tobia is a New York City-based performer. His influences strike me as largely 1970s: The Band, which is good, and that decade's pop-rock singer-songwriters, who are -- well ... a matter of taste. The result is reminiscent of what passed for folk music in that decade, after the folk music of the 1960s had passed out of fashion. In contrast to the "folk" of the 1970s, '60s folk (even at its worst) was at least vaguely based in actual tradition (i.e., actual folk music). To his credit, though Tobia's writing seems fairly clearly autobiographical, he betrays no impulse for obsessive navel-gazing. He also has a solid rhythm section behind him. I have never seen him live, but I suspect that he sounds better in front of a rockin' band than alone beating the hell out of an acoustic guitar.
Though there are echoes of folk and country, they're fainter than we've grown used to in this golden age, with a lively neo-folk revival manifesting in gratifyingly rooted Americana/alt-country sounds. It's a relief that guys like Tobia are no longer called "folksingers" except by idiots. Tobia's heart is in a kind of white-man's funk -- think a decent Delbert McClinton imitator -- with a mouthful of lyrics that somehow, against all odds, manage to scan. He's not bad, and once in a while he's better than that. Take, for example,"Flowers of Evil" -- a chilling narrative in which a psychopath at last comes into his own, its power grows and ascends with each verse. I wish, though, that Tobia knew better than to sing "alone" as "ay-lone," which is irritating and distracting enough to remind you that it is, after all, only a tin-eared Tobia, not an actual dangerous nut, telling the tale.
Over all, if less than a great recording, this is still a respectable enough one, and if Tobia's style is more to your taste than to mine, you may anticipate, I would expect, a satisfied ear.