Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Bob Cheevers - Smoke & Mirrors Back 9 Records

For an artist who has written over 3000 songs and is perennially on the road, you get the distinct impression that Bob Cheevers doesn’t do things in small measures. Therefore it is of little surprise that his latest release sees the veteran performer deciding not to go down the route of recording a straightforward album, instead taking the double option and including 23 tracks split over 2 discs. As expected, SMOKE & MIRRORS is a twin record full of self-penned songs that reflect the observations, wanderings and thoughts of this well-travelled singer-songwriter.

For those unaware of the work of Bob Cheevers, take the vocal sound of Willie Nelson and the imagery of Tom Russell and you start to get to the crux of what this troubadour is all about. Raised in Memphis on a diet of Presley and Cash, graced the mainstream of 60’s LA, lulled into the industry mechanics of Nashville before finally settling in the creative hotpot of Austin, Texas, Cheevers has well and truly lived the American music dream. The close proximity of his roots to the Mississippi has infiltrated the delta sound into his bloodstream and this core influence is a constant theme to his music.
Although you can conjure up the image of Cheevers and his guitar meandering from town to town, when in the studio he does not refrain from experimenting with a plethora of instruments that you would expect from an archetypical American roots recording. However despite the input of piano, accordion, pedal steel, mandolin etc, the dominant feature of the majority of tracks is the forceful vocals, part sung/part spoken but always ensuring you actively listen to each word attentively.

In sync with a subject dear to the heart of fellow Texan resident Tom Russell, the West and all its imagery and harshness  is covered in the tracks ‘Days In Death Valley’ and ‘Is It Ever Gonna Rain’. Similarities to Russell’s work also appear in one of the album’s best tracks, ‘Vaya Con Dios’ as Chevers skirts the Tex-Mex border with a sound vastly enhanced by some soothing accordion playing. The song ‘Texas Women and Their Diamonds’ enables Cheevers to comment on his adopted state while his blues roots really come to the fore on ‘North of Baton Rouge’.
This is an album that you will probably never tire of exploring and each listen will certainly throw up something different to consider. From disc 1, given the title ‘Smoke’ early listens will draw you to an amusing tale about the joys of taking a more than passing interest in the ‘Girl On The Evening News’ and how she illuminates a mundane day. On disc 2, unsurprisingly titled ‘Mirrors’, the track ‘Father McKenzie and Eleanor Rigby’ sees Cheevers re-write their tale from a different perspective while sampling some of the sounds from the Lennon and McCartney masterpiece.

These are just a few personal observations from this extensive selection of Bob Cheevers compositions. The recommendation is to seek the album out yourself and it is guaranteed you will discover a different interesting perspective each listen. Better still check out one his live shows when he frequently tours the UK. He regularly plays small unsuspecting venues, so you never know; he may turn up down your local, a definite upgrade from the ubiquitous Karaoke wannabe.

                                Is It Ever Gonna Rain

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