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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: David Wolfenberger
Label: Fundamental/Blue Jordan
David Wolfenberger (Creekdippers, Marshwiggles, The Foster Children) is a name familiar to two types of people: those living in the Cincinnati area, and the most devoted Americana fans. The problem that lies therein is that Wolfenberger is another of those woefully underappreciated, underplayed, underpublicized artists that only a select few are lucky enough to have heard. Portrait of Narcissus mixes a no holds barred self-evaluation with several tongue in cheek numbers and is a great time throughout.
Favors get returned on this disc: "Something's Gotta Give" features Michelle Shocked and Victoria Williams on vocals. Williams also appears on "Parking Lot Martyrs," and contributes the painting shown in the liner notes. Kim Taylor (whose own solo work is highly underrated) chips in on "Cicada Summer," a tale of Cincinnati in the summer of 1987.
"Inconsolably Overjoyed" is fantastic, and "Vespa Girl" is a wry love song. "See the Evening Star" shows Wolfenberger in full Neil Young mode, albeit a bit more melodic in tune. "Parking Lot Martyrs" is harder to pin down, at times recalling the vocals of David Grey, Neil Young, Supertramp, or even Todd Rundgren. "Ferris Wheel" is more Americana, in the T-Bone Burnett style.
"The Wreck Election" is the departure here, melding keyboards and guitars, and coming across like an incomplete mixture of Jethro Tull and the Guess Who. The closer is "Sad, Lonely, Rotten World," which will bring a smile despite its title.
Wolfenberger's work with the Creekdippers will continue to pay the bills, which means we can hope for more solo discs. If Portrait of Narcissus is any indicator, the right publicity machine could reverse that arrangement.
Brian A. Smith