George Wirth—Glimpses Into The Power Lines Sessions
You won’t catch George Wirth parading around town like the hordes of bearded pseudo renaissance men, insisting that you buy them drinks and bumming Marlboros from the even hipper fans. Hell, you probably wouldn’t even notice the guy unless you saw him on stage, trademarked sunglasses and strumming his custom sunburst acoustic.
According to George, his inspiration begins and ends with the mighty Bob Dylan. But before you clip that tough comparison to his mic stand, also know that George’s style is truly his own as he captures moments from the lives of friends and strangers alike, all circling in their own evolution-based world of sins, elations, desolations and stark honesty. The songs are personal to George, and they become completely personal to the listener as well.
George recently sent me some tunes from his upcoming disc entitled, The Power Lines Sessions, six songs full of magic done in a single-take live setting and all arranged for guitar and voice alone.
“That’s All Right” brings fast forward visions of solitary travel, railroad tracks, vagabonds, steel piers and Ferris wheels from a man that took every wrong turn down that lost highway and finally comes to realize his circumstances as he says, “never thought that I would get this far and still be standing at all.” Finger-picked acoustic by George with a bit of lonesome Harmonica does the trick.
“Great Wide Blue” illustrates the traditional life of the individual and the inevitable lasting tattoos of war and life that follow him back to “where the sidewalk ends.” “I Will Not Go Down Easily” is a rebellious nod towards the armored tenacity of a simple man and his hard won existence in a world of hypocrisies. Guitar strumming done in the vein of Johnny Prine and Robert Earl Keen finished it off.
Another storytelling standout was “The Weight Of Sin” pitting the curiosities of true belief, self-awareness and personal choices. Broad imagery examples like asking Jesus why the water didn’t pull him down when he walked on top of it, George sings, “you just gotta learn to leave the waves back on solid ground.”
Wirth is an attentive live player, tossing out observations and funny yarns and generally turning the stage into his own personal general store, beckoning you in as extended family to warm your soul at the old coal stove.
Catch George Wirth live Aug. 27, 6:30 p.m. at The Twisted Tree where Bob Denson will join him. georgewirth.com.
Bess Rogers—Travel Back
Bess Rogers has been described with many witty phrases when it comes to her style but the humble songstress seems oblivious to the pat on the back accolades and it shows in her music from the very first notes off her latest disc, Travel Back. It’s clear that Rogers has spent her life paying less attention to the critics and more honing her craft, surrounding herself with the holy trinity of writing, producing and presentation.
Rogers doesn’t waste time getting into the pitch on Travel Back with “Everything To Lose,” a hand-clapping, thick-shuffled beat that kicks in with meticulously restrained instrumentation, utilizing ukuleles pulled over the top of electric guitars instead of just blowing the chorus full out. Rogers’ vocal presence rides the wave back down into the uke-dominated verses appealingly.
Disc standout is the title track “Travel Back,” a smart and sexy tune with an addictive bass and drums bounce and unique chorus. The 1940s vibe-meets-Skye Edwards bridge section complete with megaphone effect is nice and it sets up the chorus that utilizes delicious little ukulele intro chords, launching it right at the listener’s “buy it now” button.
Rogers’ duet with Allie Moss on “Dirty Lies” shows why these two work together on many projects. Moss is another powerful vocalist and together on “Dirty Lies” the pair sound like Nashville royalty. Smooth and seamless harmony lines fly back and forth across minimal drums, bass and guitar picking with down stroke vamps into the candy coated honky tonk choruses. Oh, and I love their “Educational Fact” series on YouTube.
“Bulldozer” could easily be a hit TV theme with its contemporary feel and alt rock angst; I mean the song literally “Bulldozes” a monster chorus right into your head, where it stays for days. I also dig the Rick Springfield chug of the verses, Rogers’ smooth vocal running straight over the top. Double-timed Mystery Achievement drums drive the band into the bridge before veering dynamically back into the ending chorus.
Last tune on the disc, “I Don’t Worry,” is a beautiful carefree composition with a great intro featuring thick, loose-tuned drums and ukulele expertise. A bouncy, breezy example of country/pop expertise with a chorus that holds on tight to your consumer brain, interesting use of handclaps and guitar work as well. Outstanding production from Dan Romer (Jenny Owen Young, Ingrid Michaelson) makes this disc a must-have.
Bess Rogers is out on the road as I write this, and you’ll get a chance to see her at The Saint on Aug. 16 where she will once again take the stage with Meika Pauley and tour mate Lelia Broussard. For further information go to bessrogers.com.