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Rob Siegel Home

 

Review by Geoff Bartley

 

Rob Siegel’s brilliant new CD, “Voices from the right brain” overflows with idealism and realism, with wild moonshots and savvy connections, with polemics and wordplay, with sophisticated chord progressions and references to philosophy, mythology, history, literature and ethics.  Recorded using only his expressive voice and big fistful of acoustic guitar styles in a live concert format at Harvard Square’s legendary Club Passim, Mr. Siegel’s songs are dense and literate; they are a thinking, feeling man’s response to life in a world as devoid as ever of justice, morality and grace.  But Siegel is a survivor who seems bent on retaining his sense of humor at all costs.  In “Easy Right Hand” he writes “I had my palm read once but I prefer it blue”.  In “Look At All The Funny People” he writes “see a man shot from a canon...”  In one of my favorites, “Letter To The God I Don’t Believe In”, he juxtaposes “Thanks for Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix and John Prine / you don’t need loaves and fishes when your best work is divine” with “To the god I don’t believe in, it just gets so complex / why do people scream your name when throwing up and having sex”.  But larger matters are Siegel’s meat.  He closes the song with “But at the end of every day if you don’t obscure the way / when I look upward I can say I clearly see the universe”.  He also reprises his deceptively powerful “Shaker Chair” from his 2000 recording.  If a Shaker chair hand-made from native wood with form dutifully following function represents that part of the American psyche that is simple, clean, pure and rational, a naugahyde barcalounger represents the animal id and all that is self-indulgent and numbing in our nation, a nation that has lurched from primitivism to decadence without ever knowing civilization.  There’s a lot here, and while I confess I don’t get it all, the collection holds my interest because I get more each time.  Let’s hope this recording brings this intelligent and entertaining New England songwriter the recognition he deserves.  And anyone contemplating infidelity should listen carefully to “The Point of No Return.”

 

Geoff Bartley, March 13, 2005