Legibly Speaking

David Greenberger

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Legibly Speaking Review

by Richie Unterberger

As the publisher of The Duplex Planet, David Greenberger has collected stories from the elderly since the late '70s. On the unusual release Legibly Speaking, Greenberger sets about a dozen of these tales to music, sort of. Greenberger himself voices the stories -- drawn from elderly residents of Portland, OR -- as spoken word monologues, backed by music from the impossible to categorize six-person musical ensemble 3 Leg Torso. The stories are funny, sad, and moving, in an earthy and unpretentious way that's much more straightforward and plain-spoken, and less sentimental, than the usual such skits and anecdotes you'll hear dramatized on radio specials. Often they deal with the pain, physical illnesses, and loneliness of aging, without playing it for pathos, even when the circumstances are fairly grim (as in "Two Strokes," in which strokes of both husband and wife are depicted in detail). Yet there are also light moments mixed in, and occasional striking lines that professional writers would envy, like "Anybody who thinks they can get away without having bad times is not reading the fine print." 3 Leg Torso's musical backing combines jazz, European chamber music, and touches of gypsy, lounge, and Latin without intruding on the stories. The arrangements are both whimsical and melancholy, at times obviously specifically tailored to complement the stories, as on "How Whivet Got Her Name," where the tempo accelerates dizzily in tandem with the shaggy-dog tale.

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