Bruce Piephoff

Fools Get Away with the Impossible

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This singer/songwriter may have reached the same number of recordings released under his own name as there are volumes in the adventures of Tintin by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. One obvious reason for this reference would be the performer's son, David Piephoff, who draws cartoons and has provided covers for several Bruce Piephoff discs, Fools Get Away with the Impossible included. But the actual reason for mentioning Herge involves the historical perspective both provided and stimulated by such accumulations of creative craftwork. Many decades after adults and children have enjoyed the ridiculous adventures of Tintin and his sidekicks, historians and scholars came along and began studying the cartoon panels for interesting historical information regarding architecture in cities such as Paris and Brussels. Hergé, it seems, used actual buildings in his scenes and provided amazingly accurate detail. Will similar scholars interested in the city and culture of Greensboro, NC, eventually begin picking through Bruce Piephoff's discography to find out the real deal on what has been going down? "Tate Street Blues" is one such song in this program of 16 originals, packed with references to various people without whom this main street in the college section of town would have been unspeakably dull. Every college town has such a street and such people, yet Piephoff chronicles his details as if unconcerned about connecting with a larger audience out there who might not understand his references. Perhaps he has given up on that, the performances on this CD sometimes suffering from an uneasy, vague lack of energy and spirit. The delivery on vocals that are performed with a sort-of harmony by background singers particularly suffer from this. This sluggish atmosphere may simply be an accurate reflection of a city often called Greensboring. In view of that, it only makes sense that the most ordinary aspects of life fill the stanzas of Piephoff's songwriting, the emotional payoff happening when his descriptions fill in the portrait as vividly as in the heartbreaking "Maybe in Time," one of the tracks where additional musicians provide a sweet side dish. Perhaps the most boring aspect of the lives he describes is the endless, banal re-creation: it seems as if Piephoff is bent on surpassing Jimmy Buffett for quantities of liquor consumed during the songs on a given album. One such ditty from this current album was played to a non-drinking monitor as a standard listening experiment, the result being a blanket dismissal: "Monotonous." Thankfully for the listener, this is only one aspect of Piephoff's work, a life dedicated to performance, creativity, and communication that receives something of its own anthem in "Cut Through the Night," a classic road song given what sounds like a brilliant solo rendition. Most compelling about Piephoff's latest is the way the war in Iraq runs rampant through the streets -- as if blood and not rainwater was leaking from the plastic-wrapped newspapers full of bad news being delivered. Where a Piephoff recording from a few years earlier mentioned the distance American soldiers were from entering Baghdad, it is now a "Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Blood," a debacle that not only deserves this song of its own but enters the lyrics of the several other songs in this set as casually as if Piephoff was describing a grocery store. Bring the war home, they used to say in the '60s. The way in which it arrived will be the type of information historians will be looking for in eras to come, if they do come, when trying to understand this one.