Steve Forbert

Over with You

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Steve Forbert's debut album in 1978, Alive on Arrival, got him slapped with the "new Dylan" sticker, a death watch if there ever was one, since only Bob Dylan is or ever will be Bob Dylan, and placed unfair expectations on this gifted singer and songwriter from Mississippi. Forbert did manage a lone radio hit, "Romeo's Tune," in 1979, and while he's recorded a lot of impressive songs and albums since, the Dylan label was an albatross, and Forbert has been pretty much a well-kept secret ever since. His latest, the sparse and moving Over with You, finds his voice showing some wear and tear, but his songwriting, always more directly personal than Dylan's, is as sharp as ever. The production here is sparse and hushed, and mostly acoustic, and these ten songs form a kind of song cycle about the wins, losses, and complexities of relationships -- Forbert's Blood on the Tracks, if you will, but stripped for the most part of the layered metaphors typical of Dylan's writing. The album's opener, "All I Asked of You," sets the tone. Unhurried and direct, the song is an honest look at expectations in a relationship, and Forbert delivers it with a sort of honesty that Dylan usually struggles to veil, however magnificently. Everything follows with an easy, unhurried pace, rich in small detail, and songs like "In Love with You" have a sort of resigned, exhausted acceptance of love that only hard years of experience can earn. The one song here that does remind one of Dylan is the closer, "Sugarcane Plum Fairy," which is rich in sharply observed poetics and metaphor, and the kind of writing that got Forbert into the Dylan straitjacket over 30 years ago in the first place. What gets lost in all that is the fact that Forbert, while he didn't turn out to be the new Dylan, if he ever even wanted to be, is a wonderful songwriter with a clear and sharply observed vision of how life in the heart unfolds and reveals itself with the passage of time.

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