The Phantom Tollbooth

I Don't Think There's No Need to Bring Nothin'(Music for the First Kind Sight)
 Artist: Lindford Detweiler (Solo Piano)
 Label: What Reindeer & Grey Ghost Records (1999)
 Length:  29:19/11 songs
For over a decade now, Lindford Detweiler has been delighting fans of his music as the principal songwriter for the acclaimed Cincinnati-based band Over the Rhine. He has also been slowly shifting his responsibilities from playing the bass guitar to the keyboards, so a solo piano album is not much of a stretch of the ol' imagination for Over the Rhine fans. This recording  was initially conceived as a companion piece to a collection of Michael Wilson landscape photographs entitled First Kind Sight, and is now offered here as a stand-alone work for those who love soothing instrumental music.
Detweiler describes these piano pieces as "maybe American music: a mingling of different traditions that have seeped into all of us." These short songs without words run the gamut of gentle jazz to faintly hymnal, whereas others merely sound like the work of piano-giant George Winston. The recording is very obviously analog, with the bangs and bumps of both the room and Detweiler breathing in the background making atmospheric appearances. The sound is such that you can imagine Detweiler bent over a creaky old Emerson upright piano and lost in leisurely playing. He professes that these instrumentals take him back to "pure resonant places deep within," and they are just as likely to invoke a mood or memory in the listener as well. Within these walls you'll meet up with melancholy; share a slow dance with joy, and drift on back to better days when the feeling of fall and the familiar smell of leaves whet your appetite for apple cider and contemplation. Or maybe bleak winter skies pregnant with the promise of spring and eternal hope. There is plenty within these songs to entrance you, even if the album is shortish.
The song titles are absurdly fun, yet seem to bear little resemblance to the music. Taken in part from Dave Nixon's words (which were also originally a part of Michael Wilson's book as a short postscript) and from conversations around a dinner table among friends, the titles read like playful teasers inviting you to try to figure out their relationship to the songs. Titles like "I Said Something Yesterday That I Liked," "Weak in the Knees Across the Sky," and "OK as Long as You Don't Squeak Or Bark Or Make Another Animal Noises."
As an added bonus, Detweiler also includes a note filled with personal anecdotes. His reputation as a poetic, pithy writer of verse as well as lyric is given another space to roam here. Readers will be treated to reminisces of a piano masquerading as a furnace, an eggtooth trumpet, and a Volkswagon's cream-coloured steering wheel. What all of these story tidbits have in common is for you to discover within the CD sleeve. The front-cover photo is, of course, a Michael Wilson original, and you can see why it might inspire someone to create a musical accompaniment. Great art always inspires great art, and that is the case here. What you bring with you to these pieces is entirely up to you. Go ahead, let yourself relax and take time to remember, reflect, pause, pray or merely play...
 Steven Stuart Baldwin   9/24/99