Howard Fishman

Do What I Want

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Do What I Want finds Howard Fishman moving away from rural music and early jazz and toward a more rock-oriented sound. The regular members of his quartet -- Russell Farhang, Erik Jekabson, Jonathan Flaugher -- are still on board, but for the first time they're backed by drums (Mark McLean, Scott McLemore), electric guitars (Geoff Gersh), and Wurlitzer/Hammond B3 (Brian Pearl). The creative thrust of the songs, however, is remarkably consistent with previous efforts -- chalk it up to Fishman's distinctive way with melody and phrasing, not to mention his plain yet wonderfully expressive vocal delivery. Certain tracks, like the double-time romp "Weary Blues" and the ballad "What Was It Like?," are closer to the aesthetic of the old quartet. Others, like "Do What I Want" and "Get Some Rest," are driven by rock backbeats and lyrics that are more spoken than sung. Lyrically, Fishman swings between dejection and hope, from the darkness of "Don't Love Me" to the unqualified joy of "A New Life." He also gets fiercely acerbic at times, rebuking a depressed friend on "Nervous Breakdown" and ranting in hilariously exasperated fashion about the "Dating Game." (The latter is sort of like Jill Scott's "A Long Walk" gone horribly wrong.) "Good Times," the opener, is a radical reworking of a song that appeared on Fishman's first album; "In Another Life," one of his finest and most heartbreaking songs to date, is the finale from his theatrical work-in-progress, "We Are Destroyed." The record is very effectively produced, with unexpected instrumental breaks and sonic effects around every corner. In all, a vital statement, issuing from a very different precinct of Howard Fishman's mind. It's a rare artist that can do something drastically different and still sound entirely like himself.

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