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CD REVIEW: Jeff Bisch - Forty Watt Stars
By David Lockeretz - 07/26/2002 - 11:45 PM EDT

Artist: Jeff Bisch
Album: Forty Watt Stars
CD Review: The good news is that rather than merely mirroring current trends in the music business, Jeff Bisch has absorbed the influences of time-tested songwriters such as Springsteen, Waits, Croce and Chapin into his material. The bad news is that, perhaps, there is not enough of Jeff Bisch in the mix.

With a weather-beaten voice that seems destined to deliver late night in a bar torch songs, Bisch sings of the burdens of every day life, of families, of fires that destroy homes, relationships that aren't quite ready to die and more. Indeed, I could see many of these songs becoming bar-room classics-- "Wildcat of Mt. Gillead" in particular--but it is only on the last cut, the dark "Black Crow", that Bisch shows the potential to break away from the harmonic, timbral and lyrical formulae of the troubadour.

It's almost as if Bisch is trying too hard. He is introspective; he is tragic; he is ironic, but it's almost as if you are waiting for him to burst out into some shamelessly gratuitous lyrics. As is sometimes the case with Springsteen, Bisch seems obsessed with cramming as many ten-dollar words into a hook as possible. He has obviously searched his own soul, but in some cases seems to be unable to articulate the significance events in his life have had outside of his own experience. On the other hand, the too-cute "Daddy Push Me Higher" comes off as....well, "trite" might be a little harsh, but "naive" might be justified.

Still, I enjoyed listening to this CD and I am looking forward to future efforts from Bisch. I hope that in future releases, Bisch will move toward developing a more unique voice as a writer and performer while continuing to show the influence of his tradition.

For more information about Jeff Bisch, visit www.jeffbisch.com.


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