Flying at Night is Steve Forbert‘s seventeenth studio album since making his debut in 1978. It was recorded in collaboration with his longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Anthony Crawford, and was literally made to order, put together following a request from his booking agent in England to provide a release to precede his UK tour, which kicks off this month on October 20. As such, Forbert went back into his pile of unfinished songs and completed nine of them, some dating back to before he left Mississippi, one from his post-rehab years and another started during downtime while touring with Edie Brickell in 1988. Not that there’s any indication on the sleeve credits as to which is what.
Released only in the UK, it opens with the upbeat rhythm shuffling title track, a characteristic descending chords Forbert number, before the lyrical mood dips somewhat for the trumpet and accordion accompanied Belle of Baltimore and the obsessive stalker narrator who can’t let go a busted relationship (“my friends just say it’s time I learned, I’ve had to play with fire I must get burned”), a catchy little number.
Although in his early days, he was likened to Bob Dylan, the fact is that Forbert has one of those voices that couldn’t be anyone but him, just as, while he may flit across different styles, his sound is already readily identifiable and, as such, timeless. Listening to the relaxed strummed acoustic Dream Song it could as easily have come from 1978’s Alive on Arrival as 1995’s Mission of the Crossroad Palms, which isn’t to say he’s never progressed or changed, merely that he’s always been instantly recognisable.
Frequently lyrically reflective, the musical mood here is generally leisurely, even when he gets bluesy on Dear Angel, swampy on Never Trust A Man Who Doesn’t Drink or, as on the ‘find your place’ themed Out In The World, strikes a chiming mid-tempo folk-pop pace with twangsome guitar.
While nine of the songs had not previously seen the light of day, two are revisits. The first, Listen To The Mockingbird, was originally released on 1999’s Evergreen Boy, the only discernible difference here being the absence of the bass with the focus fully on the acoustic guitar. The second, What If Her Love Should Fail? first appeared on the download only 2010 EP Stolen Identity.
Surf’s Out, the last track of the previously unreleased, is actually a jazzy guitar and brushed snare instrumental with shimmering cymbal from Bill Thornton, sounding like something to which Jim Webb might have put words to for Glen Campbell.
Never sounding like a collection of odds and ends, like every Forbert album, it’s a pleasure to let it flow over your ears.
Flying At Night is released 14th October 2016
Steve Forbert UK Tour Dates
Thu 20 DERBY The Flowerpot, King St DE1 3DZ www.rawpromo.co.uk
Fri 21 LEEDS Seven Arts Centre, Chapel Allerton www.sevenleeds.co.uk
Sat 22 GATESHEAD Little Theatre, 1 Saltwell View NE8 4JS www.jumpinhot.com
Thu 27 LONDON Nell’s Jazz & Blues, 3 North End Crescent W14 8TG www.nellsjazzandblues.com
Fri 28 BRISTOL Folk House, 40a Park St, Bristol BS1 5JG www.bristolfolkhouse.co.uk
Sat 29 BASINGSTOKE The Forge at the Anvil, Churchill Way RG21 7QR Tel: 01256 844244 http://www.anvilarts.org.uk/
Sun 30 EXETER The Phoenix, Bradnich Place, EX4 3LS Tel: 01392 667080 www.exeterphoenix.org.uk
Wed 2 KENDAL The Brewery Arts Centre, 122a Highgate LA9 4HE 01539 725 133
Fri 4 SHEFFIELD The Greystones, Greystones Rd S11 7BS http://www.wegottickets.com/event/368910
Sat 5 LIVERPOOL Philharmonic Hall, Hope St L1 9BP www.liverpoolphil.com
Sun 6 GLASGOW St Lukes, 17 Bain SDt G40 2JZ www.stlukesglasgow.com
Photo Credit Alan Messer