Bruce Piephoff

Hamburger Square [LP]

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These dozen tracks date from a 1990 release, although some may go farther back in terms of actual recording; "Rosalita," for example, was also a regionally released single a bit earlier than that, the region being the North Carolina Piedmont and the time being the late '80s. Singer/songwriter Bruce Piephoff had already survived both the folk-rock and new wave eras by then, but the best was certainly yet to come in terms of his discography. In fact, just about all of it was yet to come, as this set represents the earliest material in his catalog. Even listeners who are not familiar with Piephoff's style might be able to pick out that this is a younger effort simply from the singing style, which tends to sound a bit pinched and anxious. From the point of view of text, songs such as "Turkey for the Homeboys" and "Aborted Rendezvous at Steak and Eggs" contain humorous asides and well-written poetry. But while a great singer can make anything sound good, Piephoff's delivery on record here sometimes fails at bringing out the full value of his own lyrics. He must have had confidence in "Rosalita," judging from its single release and placement as an opening track, but it is the non-romantic songs such as "Rumblin' Up in Lumberton" and "Big Foot in the Door" that provide the most powerful moments here, while others such as "Coca Cola Calendar Girl" and the title tune just seem a little light. The instrumental playing is superb, especially the mandolin work of overlooked North Carolina veteran Arnie Solomon and Scott Manring's fine dobro picking.

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