Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rip Van Boy Man by David Patrick Kelly

David Patrick Kelly, one of my favorite actors, (and interviewed here) recently released a CD at CD Baby. It's titled Rip Van Boy Man, and I've heard it and love it, and want to recommend it here. He shows that not only is a considerable actor, but a talented singer/songwriter as well -- all songs on the CD but one were written by Kelly.

The album contains both new songs and material recorded in clubs in the mid-1970s (in Kelly's words on the CD sleeve, "New from Now and Live from '75"), but none of the tracks have been released before. Although the songs aren't weird, macabre or comedic like much of what I focus here at TDSH, the album certainly shows imagination and a sense of humor, and there are some dark elements in the poetic lyrics of a song titled "Seven Days".

I posted a review of it at the CD Baby site, and here's part of what I wrote:

"This CD collects some of Kelly's songs from his club scene days in the Seventies with some new material. We hear his youthful voice, when he sometimes sounded like an American John Lennon (esp. on "Lautrec in Mudlight"), to the smokier sound he has today. But in all the selections, his expressive voice has conviction and brings color and emotion to the lyrics, which often remind me of Lennon and Leonard Cohen. The lyrics of the title song 'Rip Van Boy Man', 'Seven Days', and 'Cupid and the Champ at Max's' are poetically memorable."

The title song alludes to the surprise of finding oneself older, and to the value in embracing both one's past and the present. "Cupid and the Champ at Max's" is a Paul Simon-like song about an ex-fighter the narrator knew once, and the impressions of joy they both felt in "lost moments." And the song 'Apologia' is a sly but honest embrace of one's flaws and the impossibility of being kind at all times to everyone in one's life, the narrator both amused and bemused at this condition we all find ourselves in. It is written in a style reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, and would do Cohen proud if he recorded it himself.

By a slight margin I liked "Seven Days" best (hard to say which is the best song, because I like all the original songs very much). I asked about Kelly about the song's melancholy lyrics that emphasize dream imagery, and which contain the refrain "Where are you?". He responded, "'Seven Days' is about people that I met in the former Yugoslavia in 1986. 'Where are you?' comes from a Serbian slang term meaning 'What's going on?' or 'What's Up?' but roughly translated is 'Where Are You?'."

Kelly uses the now non-existent country as a metaphor for his now-past youth, seemingly as marked by idealism and turmoil as the state he visited more than twenty years ago. It's a memorable piece of "alternative folk rock", the description Kelly gives to his songs on the CD. (It an e-mail, Kelly also described the album as "not thrash and burn...more lyrical like proto Radiohead.")

If you didn't click on the links above, be sure to click on the one below, so you can hear excerpts of the tracks-- and then place an order.

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