Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise

By Lisa Lumb

MARCH 6, 2000: 

Trout Fishing in America, Closer to the Truth (Trout)

Trout Fishing in America is the quintessential folk duo, the intelligent person's laid-back acoustic group. Loved by their loyal legion of fans, TFA has been producing great music together since the late Seventies. Based in northwest Arkansas, Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood have their own record label and alternate between releasing pop/folk albums and music for children. Closer to the Truth, recorded in Nashville, is their ninth release, and another great example of this twosome's consistently fine work.

Aside from their striking talents as singer-songwriters, TFA's popularity lies in their choice of subject matter and the intimacy with which they write about it. These guys have an uncanny knack for pinpointing every nadir and zenith that abound in everyday life, and a wicked sense of humor to boot. Little details in their lyrics set listeners to chortling as they immediately identify situations that ring so true. They share the late Hoyt Axton's gravelly warmth and quick readiness to poke fun at themselves, with an "everyman" persona that's impossible not to like.

The marvelous track "Old Things," for instance, goes right to the heart of issues that baby boomers have with growing old, including the shock of suddenly finding themselves teetering on the abyss of middle age and fighting it every step of the way. This metaphorical ditty about the benefits of aging features vibrant, sassy solo spots to give it a Texas swing feel (complete with feisty fiddle by Vassar Clements), and reminds me of Lyle Lovett's ruminations on cornflakes and philosophy. And "Keep It on the Positive Side" musically and lyrically echoes Elvis' "Feel So Bad," with a litany of domestic woes, allusions to Yuppie disease, and the classic line, "If your living room was a movie, they'd call it Tornado Meets a Doublewide." In the same vein, the reggae/calypso number "Dangerous" charts the unbelievable paranoia rampant today, with tongue firmly in cheek. Yet, both the summery opening cut, as well as the instantly infectious "There You Go," tout the necessity of holding onto the mad dreams of youth -- no matter how far-fetched or irrelevant they may seem in your current situation.

Closer to the Truth explores the struggle that rages between the bookends of retaining your dreams and doing the responsible adult things that we all have to do sometimes, and in a way that resonates for those of us who won't give up the search for magic amid the mundane. TFA provides a voice -- often hilarious, sometimes confused, bemused, and elated -- that describes life as an adult human in this new millennium. And they sound really good doing it, too.

Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers, Funky Nation (Tomorrow)

Funky Nation is the third release from this young Texas zydeco band, but it's their first release on Buckwheat Zydeco's new record label, and it marks the first time that Buckwheat himself (Stanley Dural Jr.) has produced another artist.

Dural inspired and taught Lil' Brian Terry (the lead singer-songwriter and accordionist for the group) from the tender age of 13. Absorbing his mentor's penchant for genre-jumping, Lil' Brian takes the term "hybrid vigor" to a new level, successfully melding funk, soul, and snatches of hip-hop and rap to this Creole roots music. With their pulse on urban contemporary music -- but their feet planted firmly on the soil of those East Texas backroads -- Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers have produced an innovative and very pleasing CD.

The opening title track is a tour de force of tight, funky zydeco that's simply irresistible, and sounds like a groove George Clinton would cut if he were a Creole. "Question" is a soulful ballad anchored by a bluesy squeezebox accompaniment, and the breezy "Summer Girl" has a distinctive rubbery bass line that would make Bootsy Collins proud. Lil' Brian is a skilled vocalist who can croon, twist and shout, and give witness like the seasoned pro he is (at age 27), and his band can switch from hardcore "Z-funk" (as they've dubbed their musical specialty) to sweet soul music in a heartbeat. And the high-stepping instrumental, "Uncle Cliff," (a tribute to Clifton Chenier, the granddaddy of zydeco) shows that these guys have the talent to play in the traditional backcountry way with the best of them.

With Funky Nation, Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers prove that zydeco can be a thriving, evolving musical form that's as fresh and vital today as it was when it came into being decades ago.

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