Bruce Piephoff

Razor's Edge

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If a listener can get past the overt Bob Dylan influence, particularly the neck-brace harmonica playing, this debut effort by Greensboro, NC, singer/songwriter Bruce Piephoff is quite impressive. It was originally released in 1988 on vinyl, reissued as part of a CD package in 2001, and contains material that likewise would have definite appeal to fans of the acoustic Dylan sound. Yet the songs are hardly limited to this type of material, presenting an early glimpse of the versatility that makes this songwriter so fascinating. He never seems to limit himself to one range of interest or perspective, so this is a narrator's voice that continually surprises. For that to come through so strongly on such an early recording is quite an accomplishment. Ironically, the title song of the collection is the least like Dylan; in fact, it is more in the style of country songwriter Townes Van Zandt, although the latter artist might have wound up using the razor to slice his protagonist's throat. "Great N.C. Drought and Farming Disaster" has a similarly downbeat yet realistic point of view and is performed just the way material like this should be. Other unique songs include "Ballad of Mr. Formyduval" and the funny "Nobody." Some things just don't come off -- the performance of "Ghost Fiddler" is weak, for example. The slide guitar playing of Scott Manring is instrumentally the strongest thing on a record that also includes contributions from area bluegrass and old-time pickers, including banjoist Jim Eanes.

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