"Reflects the good old U.S. of A., warts and all...colorful tales...reminds us
there's a whole wide world outside our doors."
"One of the finest singer-songwriters in America. There are a lot of good ones, but when it comes to the really great ones it boils down to a select few - he's one of them" ---Larry Groce - Mountain Stage (National Public Radio)
Chuck Brodsky's been compared to early Dylan and Woody Guthrie: Tulips for Lunch finds him more accurately in the company of Mark Twain, a social satirist whose critical outlook serves to underscore his love of humanity. Chuck's groove-oriented strumming and fingerpicking draw on influences from the mountains of western North Carolina where he now lives, and from lots of different good old traditional folk stuff of all kinds.
Tulips for Lunch continues a remarkable partnership started with Chuck's previous disc, Color Came One Day. Chuck's friendship with J.P. Cormier began at the TÃ¸nder Festival in Denmark (YEAR?), with J.P. inviting Chuck to record at his studio in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Having just witnessed J.P. masterfully solo on guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo all during the course of one five minute tune, this was the invitation of a lifetime.
The ten years J.P. spent living in the Deep South playing in bluegrass and gospel bands, combined with his mastery of Cape Breton music, his considerable songwriting skills, his experiences both in the recording studio and on the road as a sideman with artists such as Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Charlie Louvin, and Vince Gill, made him the perfect complement to Chuck's artistic visions. Cormier brings an energy and dimension to the production that is as creative as the songs themselves, drawing on textures from old-time to Celtic to Klezmer, enhancing the songs' sense of history.
Two new baseball songs are included - "Curse of the Billy Goat" explores the cause of the woes of the hapless Chicago Cubs; "Death Row All-Stars" revisits the eerie true story of a Wyoming prison team whose members could earn stays of execution with stellar play - or end their lives with a bad game. Brodsky sketches bizarre tales from the America's past in "The Ballad of D. B. Cooper" and "Mary the Elephant". "Old Song Handed Down" written to a musical ancestor in a photograph, asks what it was like being a musician in a tiny Russian village in the 1880's." In "The Point", about a father/son relationship expressed across a ping-pong table, Brodsky again suggests that it's in playing that our true natures are revealed. "Two Left Feet" is a rare Chuck Brodsky romantic song.
In addition to being fixtures on the Dr. Demento show, Chuck's songs have been recorded by Kathy Mattea, David Wilcox, Sara Hickman, Chuck Pyle, and many others. He's appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs "Mountain Stage," "Acoustic Cafe," and "River City Folk," and has performed three concerts of his baseball story songs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Chuck has toured extensively throughout the US, Canada, and Ireland for 14 years, playing at folk festivals such as TÃ¸nder, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Kerrville, Philadelphia, and Strawberry, as well as the Lincoln Center Out of Door series in New York. Artists he's appeared in concert with include Arlo Guthrie, Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Tim O'Brien, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, John Hartford, Greg Brown, Gillian Welch, Dick Gaughan, Tom Paxton, Ferron, Richie Havens, Patty Larkin, Steve Forbert, The Kingston Trio, and Christine Lavin.
Suggested radio tracks: A Toast to the Woman in the Holler, The Unreliable Taxi, "The Man Who Blew Kisses", "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire".
FishRecords.co.ukChuck Brodsky - Tulips for Lunch
Chuck Brodsky - Tulips for Lunch
Over the course of the past 10 years or so Chuck has released a collection of discs that stand up against the output of the very best folk singer/songwriters. His early albums contained some stunning tracks with biting sarcastic lyrics, but his real strength is as a storyteller, whether he's recounting tales of memorable baseball characters or telling tender tales he really makes the listener pay attention.
He's always had an eye for the memorable modern story, and this disc takes this theme and expands on it as many of the tracks are chronicles of strange and remarkable events that took place in the US over the past 100 years. From the story of an elephant that killed it's handler (Mary the Elelphant); a curse placed on the Cubs by a disgruntled fan (Curse of the Billy Goat); a hijack, ransom and the disappearance of the perpetrator (The Ballad of DB Cooper), through to a wonderful tale of a stand in Santa being pelted by snowballs at a football game (The Great Santa Snowball Debacle of 1968) these are all self contained stories but with facts and backgrounds that can be found and expanded on by a few minutes spent on the internet.
As ever Chuck's excellent guitar work provides the backing for the 13 songs and there's a good amount of instrumentation including fiddle, mandolin, accordion and banjo to add detail and depth to the tracks.
Stunning intelligent lyrics and subtle backing make 'Tulips for Lunch' a memorable - he's a fine singer/songwriter and this disc has some exceptional tracks and the fact that many are based on real events make them all the more interesting.
Tony Peyser's "Blue State Jukebox"
February 16, 2006
Chuck Brodskyâ€™s Tulips For Lunch
Tony Peyser's "Blue State Jukebox" Review -- February, 2006
I was deleting some old emails recently and found the one I wrote last year to the big enchiladas at BuzzFlash about launching this column. I gave them some music reviewing clips and Iâ€™m pleased to say Iâ€™ve made good on my central promise: sharing with readers musical artists who have real talent, singular perspectives on whatâ€™s going on in the world and are currently flying under the pop music radar.
Chuck Brodsky meets all those requirements.
Tulips For Lunch is the seventh album by this singer-songwriter whoâ€™s based in Asheville, North Carolina. Heâ€™s made quite a reputation for writing songs about baseball, so much so that some of his CDs are enshrined at the Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown. While there are tracks here on that topic, Brodsky covers a lot of other ground as well in a manner thatâ€™s dependably comical, touching and unforgettable. Thereâ€™s a sweet rasp in his voice that recalls the pre-Fatwah Cat Stevens. Itâ€™s a clichÃ© to say someoneâ€™s songs are like short stories but these truly are and Brodsky has a quiet knack for getting every iota of your undivided attention.
â€œCurse Of The Billy Goatâ€ is Brodskyâ€™s breezy account of how The Chicago Cubs (allegedly) wound up being cursed. After loyal fan â€œBilly Goatâ€ Bill Sianus got thrown of the 1945 World Series for bringing in his pet goat, he stood out on Waveland Avenue, raised his hands and vowed evil things on his now formerly beloved Cubbies. Thereâ€™s a lightness to the narrative up to this point but Brodsky becomes appropriately ominous and the chords suddenly sound a little darker: â€œJust then a cloud passed over/From the lake a chilly wind/Anybody within earshot/Woulda had goosebumps on their skin/The skeptics say baloney/The poets make up verse/60 some years later/They still blame it on the curse.â€ Until the Cubs turn things around like the once cursed Red Sox did, this song will never go out of fashion. (Far be it from me to suggest song topics to someone of Brodskyâ€™s stature but maybe a tune about â€œThe Seinfeld Curseâ€ is in order. George, Elaine and Kramer will dismiss it as non-existent but all their solo TV sitcom efforts seem as blighted as a certain baseball team from The Windy City.)
The other baseball song here is far more somber but in keeping with Brodskyâ€™s penchant for finding unusual --- damn near unbelievable --- tales related to our great American pastime. Some previous compositions include ones about catcher Moe Berg who was a spy, Eddie Klepp, the only white guy who played in The Negro Leagues and the day Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD. Anyway, the title alone here gives you plenty of hints: â€œDeath Row All-Stars.â€ Almost a 100 years ago, there were prison inmates awaiting execution who became a team. Brodsky digs deep into the infield dirt and fields some real gems about what must have been going on in these fellowâ€™s minds: â€œPractice in the prison yard/Concrete diamond, pocked and scarred/I only lived to crush that ball/Somewhere far beyond the walls/To places I won't ever see/Go on ball, you go for me/Give those lawmen all the drop/Keep on rolling, never stop.â€ Every home run for those teammates who called prison home was like a message in a bottle that they hoped someone someday would notice and remember. Lucky for them, they have a sympathetic chronicler in Brodsky.
Many women (including my wife) often wonder why men wind up all weepy at movies like â€œField Of Dreamsâ€ when sons play catch with their dads. Iâ€™ve always argued that sports movies are guy versions of chick flicks. Brodsky will surely receive a similar teary response here from a heap of guys with â€œThe Point.â€ It maps the growth of a dad and sonâ€™s relationship over years of playing ping-pong. The lesson is that life --- and sports --- is ultimately about playing, not winning. This realization is rendered with such sweetness and clarity that I think this track alone will help sell a bunch of Brodskyâ€™s CDs in June in time for Fatherâ€™s Day.
The 2003 Cuba Gooding movie â€œRadioâ€ was based on a magazine article about a mentally disabled man who became a mascot for a high school football team. The producers of the film knew Brodsky had written a song about this same fellow and liked it so much that a) they used part of the song in the movie and b) gave Brodsky a walk-on. A like-minded individual is also front and center in â€œThe Man Who Blew Kissesâ€ and a line from it gives the album its title. You donâ€™t have to have a child with a disability to be moved by this song. Because I do, it moved me that much more. One of the hardest things about raising children who are different is always going out in the world knowing (as my friend Josh eloquently put it) that youâ€™re â€œthe other.â€ Brodsky taps into this and his song about this gentle soul is his way of letting people who are different know theyâ€™re welcome out in the world: â€œThe man who blew kisses, blew them at me/It tickled my heart & it buckled my knee/It made my voice crack & it righted all wrongs/I blew kisses back at the end of the songs.â€
At this point, the songs Iâ€™ve mentioned have more than enough power and substance to make anybody go out and purchase this album. But I have to mention two other tracks.
While most of the CD has a folk feel to it, â€œTwo Left Feetâ€ definitely steps a foot forward with a country flair. As the fiddle plays, the song seems to have a life of its own as it spins around the dance floor with grace and ease. The late, great writer and radio show host Jean Shepherd would have appreciated this saga of a man at a dance with one very specific objective, only to find that he was destined to literally stumble upon another. â€œTwo Left Feetâ€ is about finding what youâ€™re not looking for and is as endearing a description of love blossoming that I can remember hearing in ages. As Brodsky does on several songs here, the last lines provide a new perspective on everything thatâ€™s taken place. But I wouldnâ€™t dream of telling you and spoiling the surprise.
Finally, when Brodsky got in touch with me and asked me to listen to his album, all he said was he thought Iâ€™d like a song called â€œLiar, Liar, Pants On Fire.â€ (He is, by the way, a self-avowed BuzzFlash fan.) Well, I really canâ€™t review anything that doesnâ€™t have something political on it and this is a sing-along corker: â€œLiar liar, pants on fire/Preaching only to the choir/Photo op in front of the steeple/How did you manage to fool these people?â€ Brodsky never lets his anger get in the way of his message and sneaks in a wonderful concluding visual with these lines: â€œTalk the lingo, dress the part/Even put your hand on your heart/Bomber jacket, emperorâ€™s clothes/You canâ€™t even reach the end of your nose.â€ That dancer may have had two left feet but Brodsky here gets everything right.
One last thing: when I was trying to sell The Blue State Jukebox to BuzzFlash, one of the clips I provided was about a 2004 release called Color Came One Day. And that album just happens to have been made by a fellow named Chuck Brodsky.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Curse of the Billy Goat
2. Old Song Handed Down
3. A Toast to the Woman in the Holler
4. The Great Santa Snowball Debacle of 1968
5. The Point
6. Death Row All-Stars
7. The Unreliable Taxi
8. Mary the Elephant
9. The Man Who Blew Kisses
10. In the Beginning
11. Liar Liar, Pants on Fire
12. Two Left Feet
13. The Ballad of D.B. Cooper