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CD REVIEW: Doug Spears - Truths and Lies
By Chip Withrow - 11/19/2005 - 10:15 PM EST

Artist: Doug Spears
Album: Truths and Lies
CD Review: Doug Spears creates rustic tales, memorable characters, and vivid images, and he sets his lyrics to a warm, true folk sound. Many of his songs are about historical and rural Florida – not exactly the same state tourists picture.

His fine CD Truths and Lies is pure acoustic music. These homespun songs would work with just Spears’ guitar and vocals, so the players who join Spears are a bonus. The result is a disc that brings to mind a group of musician friends playing around a campfire or on the front porch of a farmhouse.

Spears’ songs might make the listener recall John Denver’s best work, but with one major difference – where Denver’s hits were often embellished by strings and other extras, Spears is ably backed by just acoustic string players. In particular, fiddler Alan Stowell shines throughout.

Truths and Lies kicks off with three songs about interesting people: “Mournful Eyes,” “Annie’s Chairs,” and “Banks of the Old St. John’s.” “St. John’s” and, later on, “A Mother’s Tears,” are the best of his character sketches.

Right away, “Mournful Eyes” showcases all that is good about this disc: Spears’ smooth, well-worn vocals backed by Stowell’s fiddle runs and Ally Smith’s harmonies in just the right places.

Spears steps out and rocks a bit on “Teppentine” and “Steam Train.” They are reminiscent of a bygone era both lyrically (“Teppentine” a field hand’s lament and “Steam Train” a ride on the rails circa 1901) and in their blend of blues and bluegrass.

The album includes some nice slow songs, too. “That Old Songwriter’s Gone” and “This Old House” are bittersweet, and “Thrift Shop” is fitting for a songwriter from a state full of them.

Truths and Lies is catchy the first time, particularly “Swimming Against the Tide” and “Mournful Eyes.” But because it has stories within the lyrics, and subtle yet stirring vocal and musical turns, Truth and Lies is an album that gets better with repeated listens

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