Terry Tufts,
Two Nights Solo
(Borealis, 2002)

Two Nights Solo is a CD of live recordings from Rasputin's Folk Cafe in Ottawa by singer-songwriter and acclaimed guitarist Terry Tufts.

After an opening instrumental, Tufts' second track, "Marylou in Burgundy," while contemporary, has all the inveigling charm and easy singability of the best traditional Irish folk songs. "Only Halfway Home" reminds me more than a little of a track by Del Amitri, but Tufts' intricate skill on guitar elevates this expose of courting rituals into a different realm.

In the lyric folder, he claims he "got lost in the weeds" while writing "I'll Try Again"; it may not be as he wished but its inclusion proves he has recognised its worth separate from his original intentions for the song. Its minimal accompaniment and weary but not defeatist lyrics make it stick in the memory. He follows it with an up-tempo stomper, "Tearin' Up the Tundra," about Saturday night dances in Alaska. Another instrumental precedes a cover of "With a Little Help from My Friends" -- it's nice enough, nothing special, but it breaks the rhythm of his own music, perhaps intended as an interval. I certainly agree with his written sentiments on the cover regarding the current lack of the strong "signature licks" so prevalent in older popular songs.

He resumes his own compositions with "So High On You." Although he describes it as "hormonal gibberish," the song nonetheless has broad appeal while lacking the inane, repetitive lyrics so indicative of current hits. He includes a conscience-pricking environmental call in "All You Really Need To Know," a pensive and slightly sorrowful song sung on behalf of the wildlife of Canada.

He continues his introspective demeanour with the balladic "Revelstoke," reflecting the actions of the past that haunt the regrets of the present. "You Said" follows; it's another love song, this one bitter and struggling for self-preservation against the repeated hurts inflicted by cruel words. For anyone ever hurt by someone, this could well be a mantra towards realization and healing: "...the only time you felt good about yourself's when you made me feel small. I'll never meet your expectations. Your floating standard's much too high. For the good of all concerned now I can fin'ly say goodbye when I'm reminded of things that you said."

Another instrumental, on 6-string guitar, precedes the final track, another cover, but this one seemingly less out of place than the Beatles. Tufts slows "I Remember You" from the Frank Ifield hit, claiming Lester Young did the best version of all. This closing song has a curious appeal, suited to his voice and his accompanying guitar, lulling the listener through to the album's gentle conclusion.

There is enough diversity within the album to please most tastes: changing tempos, subject matter and interspersing instrumentals and vocals. The refrain of "Marylou in Burgundy" remains in the mind well after the CD ceases playing, the feet can still feel the beat of "Tearin' up the Tundra" and the pain and the poetry contained in "You Said," like a bruise, take a good while to fade from memory. If folk is not your favourite style, do not dismiss this out of hand; the compositional skills of Terry Tufts encompass many genres and the intelligent lyrics have an appeal all their own.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 1 February 2003

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