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7 Years Bad Luck
As a title, 7 Years Bad Luck may be Noah Riemer’s idea of a self-effacing quip or his way of singing the blues, but this CD may, indeed, bring some good luck: it is good.
It’s taken five years for Ticklepenny Corner to figure out just what it is as a musical entity, and the real irony is that some actual bad luck may yet occur. After the recording of this album, two of the band’s five members left no rancor, just personal changes. 7 Years, however, provides a strong foundation for the future that will be centered, just like Over the Rhine’s male/female fulcrum, on the yin-yang of Riemer and his fiddling sister and co-singer, Beth Spransy, along with back-up singer Katie Johnson.
Riemer is about as retro an artist as one can find these days; the simplicity of his songs, making the lyrics the focal point, and the seemingly outdated musical canvasses of his presentations don’t bode well for young moderns’ attention. But the Burlington, Wisconsin native has a quirky, sly sense of humor that permeates most all of his work and translates wonderfully on stage (Cornerstone concert attenders will remember his tap dance in the middle of “Hwy 83”).
In the meantime, Riemer’s songwriting has developed wonderfully, supporting his lyrics about sensitive, small town characters with an assortment of rhythms, using the delightfully maturing voices of his ladies to full effect: check out the softly swinging “girl group” riff of “No So Long,” one of the best tunes Noah has written.
This reviewer wouldn’t suggest that every young artist spend too much time with Michael Knott, but the group’s tour with the musically-schizophrenic rocker has evidently borne some fruit in terms of performance. 7 Years shows that Riemer can occasionally rise from the Randy Travis-ish crooning and downhomey dynamic he naturally subscribes to. The clearest evidence is on the CD’s closer, “Anyhow, Anyways,” in which he fluctuates between Texas swing king and frantic blues rouser.
Jeff Cebulski 9/15/2003