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CD REVIEW: Charlie Strater - Thornhill Road
By Ben Ohmart - 05/21/2007 - 10:34 AM EDT

Artist: Charlie Strater
Genre: Folk
CD Review:
Unlike some cds I’ve heard, Charlie seems to reinvent himself with each additional track. While the first song, ‘My Blues’, may be archtypical blues-folk, once we pass into ‘Thornhill Road’ territory, it’s like listening to a hard rock voice gone ballad-ic. It’s not a ballad, not with that med-tempo-swingin’ fiddle, but the stereo harmonics that pitch fire like ancient mariners are full of confidence that are Just on the edge of starting a fight. A very fine transition to what is next and what is not blues.

‘Blue Palm’ squeezes out a liquid-electric beat and a muted trumpet so tight you wonder if it’s not an anally perverted horn that seeks out strip clubs for the oozing sex. Call it funk or blues-funk, it ain’t blues. Not unless they changed the rules. What it IS is the most complete song so far, great arrangement, and equally great Strater vocal skill, rising and falling, often escaping from octave to octave without even bothering with the scrawny notes in between. The man can go from black to white man and back with the flip of a Bic.

Charlie Strater spends a lot of time in coffeehouses, and no doubt he spooks many a patron when he goes into some of this stuff. Well, GOOD. Anyone who combines genres as often as this needs to be heard, applauded and pitched onto some strong shoulders at the end of the football set. However, ‘Scrapyard Lullabies’ is perfectly fine for the traditionalist on your list. Just a voice ­ still skidding up and down like a teen who’s voice is changing But Can Control It ­ and a guitar and a guitar. He’s on guitars as well, strutting and strumming like a guy who Knows these notes.

Yeah, if everyone had the confidence that this Strater tries out, the world would be a better and less polluted place. His songwriting skills are of course damn fine, but as a performer he goes far past this. He’s one who could give a sensitive touch singing the phone book or make a take-out menu sound angry and romantic if he gave it a shot. Even if you don’t go for blues or folk, go for the in-betweens Charlie brings.

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