Musician: Steve Forbert

Label: Blue Corn Music


Perhaps no group of musicians has a harder time getting the word out about their work than independent singer/songwriters. They sing, they write songs, they play instruments—but how are they defined? Country, folk, folk/rock, Adult Contemporary, Americana, roots? All the above, some of the above, none of the above? Is it easier to compare/contrast such artists with better known practitioners like Warren Zevon, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, or Bruce Springsteen? All the folks who are, I think it was John Wesley Harding, humorously described as “Dylan’s dumbass younger brothers.”

Such is the case for Steve Forbert whose Romeo’s Tune was a Number 11 Billboard hit in 1980. Right out of the box, the Dylan comparisons came flying. Forbert later said, “You can't pay any attention to that. It was just a cliche back then, and it's nothing I take seriously. I'm off the hook — I don't have to be smarter than everybody else and know all the answers like Bob Dylan."

True enough. Now with 14 albums under his belt, the most consistent term used to describe Forbert’s work is “under-appreciated.” Over With You isn’t likely to be an album to change all that, but it is worthy of appreciation for listeners who like gentle story songs. 

According to his video about the album at YouTube, Over With You came about when Grammy Award-winning producer Chris Goldsmith told Forbert that Ben Harper had five days of unused studio time open and that Forbert was free to use the hours. While some reviewers have said the result was a “song cycle,” in fact Forbert sent Goldsmith 15 of his most current compositions, Goldsmith chose 10, and the producer quickly assembled a handful of players to record the tracks. Forbert admitted he knew no one else involved in the sessions but feels the results were spot on.

It turned out most of the songs were relationship-oriented and “slowed down,” in Forbert’s words, to avoid a “poppy” feel. Considering the time constraints, Goldsmith should be credited for nailing down a barebones, stripped down tone for Over With You, especially the mic placement which adds a rough echo to Forbert’s voice. Admittadly, the instrumentation is so minimal, many songs sound like well-mixed demos. Forbert indeed focuses on relationships between men and women, especially break-ups and their aftermaths in songs like “All I Asked Of You,” “In Love With You,” and the title song.

Not all the offerings are slow cooking ballads, as in “All I Need To Do” with its simple keyboard hook. Likewise, “That'd Be Alright” is driven by simple upbeat percussion. The harp on “Baby, I Know” probably will encourage some listeners to think Springsteen and Dylan, and with good reason. On the other hand, the rich imagery of “Don't Look Down, Pollyanna” is about as original and contemporary as a lyric can get, about a woman who’s on the ledge as she lost her home to heavy mortgage payments.

Over With You is a listenable set of 10 songs that aren’t going to set the world on fire, although I suspect alert performers out there might find new tunes for their catalogues. It will most likely appeal to mature listeners looking for, ah, folk, folk/rock, Adult Contemporary . . . music you’ll probably want to play more than once. Not all Dylan’s younger brothers are dumbass, by miles.


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