For sheer musicianship, it is difficult to think of many contemporary guitar playing singer-songwriters who can claim superiority to Peter Mulvey. His third studio album, The Trouble with Poets demonstrates once again the originality and technical proficiency of his guitarwork, incorporating echoes of accomplished fretsmiths like Leo Kottke and Ani DiFranco into a style that is distinctly his own (on "Wings of the Ragman," he even manages an effective impression of the Sundays' David Gavurin). The Trouble with Poets is also more satisfying as a thematic whole than his previous efforts, realizing to a new extent Mulvey's considerable promise as a lyricist. The album opens by defining the poet as one who can "see poetry everywhere." From that point on, Mulvey proves that he fits the definition through an illuminating excavation of metaphysical realities lurking beneath the surface of everyday events. Mulvey sees poetry in a rope slapping against a flagpole, a child sneaking outside late at night, a man waiting for the train in the morning. "It's all around you now," he says in one song. "Still you don't see." Unfortunately, for all his skill as a guitarist, Mulvey's musical compositions only fitfully match the brilliance of his lyrics. Melody has never been his strongest suit, and he is somewhat limited as a singer. But despite the inconsistencies, it doesn't take a poet to see poetry in The Trouble with Poets.
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AllMusic Review by Evan Cater