Streets of this Town-Revisited
(Blue Rose Music)
4 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Call it a comeback. In 1988 folk-rocker Steve Forbert returned from a mess of music business legal matters preventing him from releasing new music. His previous self-titled album in 1982 wasn’t well received either critically or commercially, so he needed to reassert his talents for those who became fans after the radio charting (at No.11) “Romeo’s Tune” in 1975. But that proved impossible due to his label conflicts.
Matters finally ironed out and Forbert rebounded, albeit arguably too late, with one of his most consistent collections, Streets of This Town. While no hits resulted, these ten tracks, produced by E Street bassist Garry Tallent, captured the essence of Forbert’s formidable gifts, as well as, perhaps better than, his earlier releases.
Many artists have been credited with tapping into what is now accepted as Americana before it was officially a genre. Forbert is one of them. His mix of jaunty folk, pop melodies, sharply observed singer/songwriter lyrics, subtle strains of country, and scratchy, charming, immediately identifiable vocals ticked off all the Americana boxes before there were any to check.
Push play and the Byrds-y/Petty-ish strum of “Running on Love” jumps out like a melody you’ve always known. It’s a simple love ditty, but between Forbert’s committed singing, Clay Barnes’ lead guitar, and Tallent’s sure production that stays unobtrusive, it shakes out of the speakers with the confidence of a guy who’s thrilled to be back in a recording studio.
The ringing “Hope, Faith and Love,” where he expresses I need hope to look for the good through the bad, probably references his frustrating career issues. But like many of the most memorable songs, it applies to anyone struggling with life’s uncertainties.
Most tracks follow a mid-tempo strummy blueprint, but some veer off into more sentimental territory. One of those is the lovely “Search Your Heart” that floats along on sweet words of Forbert telling a lover things will get better If you search your heart / You’ll ease your mind over clear repeated guitar chords. An extra tune, added for this reissue, is “They’re Out to Break Us,” another title that can refer to his business problems or romantic ones. It’s as potent as anything else and well worth hearing for fans. Forbert’s committed, emotional vocals can sell even the weakest lyrics, something he doesn’t need to be concerned about with performances as dependable as the ones here.
This ultimately didn’t return Forbert to past glories. But like the best, most resilient albums, it sounds as fresh today as when it was released 30-plus years ago. While there have been over a dozen others that followed, The Streets of This Town, newly remastered and remixed for this reissue, remains one of Steve Forbert’s finest recorded moments.
Photo courtesy Propeller Publicity