FAME Review: Jeffrey Foucault's "Stripping Cane" written by David
David N. Pyles
dnpyles at acousticmusic.com
Wed Aug 18 09:58:54 EDT 2004
Signature Sounds (SIG 1286)
Signature Sounds Recording Company
P.O. Box 106
Whatley, MA 01093
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz (schultz at alum.mit.edu)
Jeffrey Foucault (pronounced FOH-kult) released his critically acclaimed
debut "Miles from the Lightning" in 2001. (See
http://www.acousticmusic.com/fame/p02457.htm for a review.) Touring to
support this album since then, Foucault has played with Guy Clark, Greg
Brown, Chris Smither, Kelly Jo Phelps, Gillian Welch, Richard Buckner,
Rosanne Cash, and John Hammond, among others. He also collaborated with his
friends Peter Mulvey and Kris Delmhorst to create the 2003 album of mostly
cover songs "Redbird." Finally, in 2004, Foucault released his long-awaited
sophomore solo follow-up, "Stripping Cane." Expect this album to generate
more buzz and more of the same accolades for this young singer-songwriter.
Foucault is the master of an introspective, sometimes dark, mood. Sparse
instrumentation on both his albums is the rule. On "Stripping Cane," a drum
appears just once---only on the title song, and then barely noticeable. The
album is dominated by acoustic instrumentation by Foucault and
multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich. Fellow Redbird collaborators Mulvey
and Delmhorst occasionally lend their backing vocals, as does Anita Suhanin
(Groovasaurus and Shwang). Foucault's distinctive rich voice and guitar
work is dominant in the mix, as it rightly should be. Credit goes to
producer David Goodrich (Chris Smither, Peter Mulvey, Rose Polenzani), who
carried these strengths over from the first album.
If there is a fault to "Miles from the Lightning," it is that the sparse
album was too much for the listener. The one relatively upbeat track "I'm
Alright" comes too late in the album for any refreshment. Fortunately,
"Stripping Cane" avoids this weakness. The album is more bluesy, is
consistently more melodic, is sequenced better, and possesses more variety
than its predecessor . That's why I think "Stripping Cane" has the ability
to be the breakout album for Foucault's career.
The album opens with "Cross of Flowers," about returning home to an
abandoned rural setting. Whereas the opener is reminiscent of the dark
imagery on "Miles from the Lightning," the second jolts us into rocking
country blues about the short lifespan of a "Mayfly." Foucault explains
that the tune was a result of trying the figure out the first few bars of
"Freight Train" in an open tuning in a Texas hotel room, and hitting the
wrong note repeatedly. This "mistake" is a lucky one for
listeners---"Mayfly" is one of my favorites on the album. The song's
lyrical simplicity, coupled with Foucault's and Goodrich's funky guitar
work, brings a lightness that is uncharacteristic of Foucault's earlier
work. This upbeat vibe appears again on "4&20 Blues," a country waltz with
Foucault playing electric pedal steel. The song, another highlight of the
album, rocks with a ferocity unsurpassed on either of his two albums.
Foucault also shows his mastery of the murder ballad in "Doubletree." For
this song, Foucault assumes the persona of a man hired to keep the mountain
snow off railroad tracks for the coal trains. This song has an interesting
twist, however, that I won't reveal here. (Curious readers can read the
lyrics for themselves on Foucault's web site.) "Stripping Cane" also
includes a fiddle-driven cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi,"
with backing vocals and fiddle work by Delmhorst.
Foucault sings with a maturity of someone twice his age of 28. Consider the
title track, about trying to obtain the sweetness through the hard work of
stripping the leaves from the sugar cane plant.
There's no more room for angels
To dance or even stand
Upon this pin entangled
Bleeding sugar from our hands
Bleeding ashes from our feet
Won't you help me count my sheep?
Won't you help me count my sheep tonight?
Those who like the deep-voiced blues of Kelly Jo Phelps will not be
disappointed with Jeff Foucault. Between his two albums, Stripping Cane is
definitely my favorite and the one I would recommend as the first purchase
for new fans. This album will go a long way to solidifying Foucault's
reputation nationally as an exceptional singer-songwriter.
Track Listing (All songs by Foucault, except as noted)
Cross of Flowers
The Bluest Blade
Pearl Handled Pistol
Don't Look for Me
Tropic of Cancer
Lodi (John Fogerty)
Every New Leaf Over
Edited by David N. Pyles (dnpyles at acousticmusic.com)
Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society and David Schultz. This
review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
David N. Pyles
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
82 Leadmine Road
Nelson NH 03457 USA
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