Robert Hazard

Troubadour

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After spending much of the '80s walking a fine line between commercial new wave and heartland rock, Robert Hazard dropped out of sight (at least beyond his native Philadelphia), but in the New Millennium, Hazard has reinvented himself as a contemporary singer/songwriter, and after self-releasing a pair of acoustic-oriented albums, Hazard returns to the national spotlight with 2007's Troubadour. These days, Hazard's fire brand approach has been considerably toned down, and his vocal style now suggests a cross between Bruce Springsteen and Joe Henry. That's not a bad description of his lyrical direction, either; as a songwriter, Hazard spins a good story and has a fine sense for the telling moment and important detail, though the verbal economy of some of his earlier work would be welcome, given it takes over an hour for Troubadour's 12 tunes to play out. Troubadour's production (by Pete Heitzman and Karen Savoca) is solid and unobtrusive, and Heitzman's guitar work fits the melodies like a glove. However, while the craft of the album is impressive and Hazard's new songs clearly come from the heart, Troubadour never quite catches fire; this music spends far too much time in a meandering mid-tempo groove that sucks the life out of the tunes by the time "Ride to Town" drifts to a close, and the songs, good as they are, start to sound perilously similar as a result. Note to Hazard: a real troubadour knows when to throw a fast one into the set. Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs used to do it all the time.

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