Steve Forbert Just Like There's Nothin' to It

Ping-ponging between record labels for two decades and largely skirting mainstream attention has allowed Forbert to hone his seeing-the-world-from-the-trenches songcraft largely in his own direction with his own rules. Just Like There's Nothin' to It, on the one hand, is a testament to the strength of this approach, as it is brimming with Forbert's patent honesty and songs that care little for play lists and focus groups. In fact, it sounds very much like early material from kindred spirit Murray McLaughlin. The flip side though is that occasionally we get a track that's too personal, too introspective, and would probably have been better left off the CD. For the most part this record offers us clean production with the songs really just being a foundation for Forbert's gritty vocals. Even Edie Brickell's potentially stunning voice is virtually buried on her three tracks, a mistake for sure on the producer's part. There are bursts of energy from the band in the Rick Danko tribute "Wild as the Wind,” with its gorgeous steel guitar swells, and in the guitar-layered "I Just Work Here" but then, in what could be the album's highlight — the Ray Bonneville inspired blues "Oh, Yesterday" — the icing guitar licks are buried so far back in the mix, at times you have to dig out your headphones just to hear them. While songs like "What It is is a Dream,” "There's Everybody Else" and "The Change Song" are classic examples of Forbes' bountiful talent, a track like "I Married a Girl" will leave you scratching your head, wondering what he was thinking. Its bitter lyrics about a soured marriage juxtapose awkwardly against the delicate finger picking and recital piano accompaniment. And lines like "I married a girl / And so began the 15-year dispute for control" would have been better kept to the messy divorce proceedings and not posted here for public consumption. (Koch)