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CD REVIEW: Doug Spears - Truths & Lies
By JJ Biener - 03/22/2006 - 03:45 PM EST

Artist: Doug Spears
Album: Truths & Lies
CD Review: Doug Spears
Truths & Lies

“They don’t write songs like that anymore.” The first time a person says that, it is a milestone, a rite of passage. It is an indication the wonder of youth has given way to the nostalgia that comes with adulthood. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am of such an age as to have that particular phrase in my lexicon. Every time I hear those words slip from my lips I suppress the urge to cringe. Well, I am happy to report I need never say those words again. Doug Spears writes songs like they used to, and better than that, they are really good songs.

Doug is as much storyteller as he is songwriter and performer. He is an artist who paints gentle portraits with words and music. His songs are like picture postcards from the past discovered in long-forgotten trunk on a Sunday afternoon. He draws from history and the heritage of his native Florida which gives this CD a regional flavor that is rarely seen in commercial music.

The opening track sets the tone for those to follow. Mournful Eyes is a portrait of an old man who has lived a difficult life which is now reflected in his eyes, He has found some things late in life which give him comfort: a fire in the cold, a late-night drink of whiskey, the dawn rising, but it is a simple sadness that pervades his life. In his simplicity he allows us to see our own lives reflected back at us.

Banks of the Old St John is the story of Vista Faire, a woman, part Seminole, who lives alone in a pinewood shack on the banks of the St John River. As with most of Doug’s characters she lives a quiet, simple life free from the complexity that now haunts our existence. One day she meets a traveling man who stays briefly, but ultimately leaves her with child. He never returns, but Vista Faire now has a child with which she can share beauty of the land that is her home. This song won the Will McLean Award in 1997.

That Old Songwriter’s Gone is a tribute to the late Mickey Newberry. Annie’s Chairs is about a woman who makes chairs from hardwood vines as an outlet for her loneliness. A Mothers Tears tells the story of Lewis Powell who conspired with John Wilkes Booth to murder Abraham Lincoln and died on the gallows for his crime.

Doug Spear’s Truths & Lies is not a collection of cheerful, empty songs. They a stories of complex people in often difficult circumstances. His approach is always subtle and artful. The musicianship and recording are uniformly well done. His voice is always clear and crisp. If you miss the folk and folk rock songs of 60’s and 70’s, Doug Spears’ songs will evoke a very pleasant feeling of nostalgia, and send you digging in your attic for your old record collection.

You can find more information about Doug Spears at

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