Taking a listen
Bruce Piephoff — Clockwork
It’s just as much the interesting characters as it is the locale that gives a town its personality, but it oftentimes takes a folk singer to break them loose from casual anonymity. Greensboro singer and poet Bruce Piephoff (www.brucepiephoff.com) does just that for the cast of his new album Clockwork, a collection of compelling musical narratives and spoken-word pieces that revolves around the seediest and saintliest that he’s encountered in his days. His grizzled tenor sounds like an early John Prine while he regales the listener with folk-country ditties about everyone from a noble vagabond on Tate Street (“Sam the Can Man”) to a tenuously bonded couple (“Ballad of Frankie and Loretta”) to Townes Van Zandt himself (“Shooting Pool With Townes Van Zandt”). Like Prine, he uses clever wordplay on “This World Runs Like Clockwork” to paint an optimistic face on an otherwise mournful tale. Using lines like “I got a baby with a baby” and “this old world runs like clockwork, but it’s a cuckoo clock,” Piephoff masterfully paints detailed portraits of depression and joy with only few words. He slips out of his singer/songwriter skin and peppers Clockwork with witty spoken word banter, backed by a murky sax and a lonesome upright bass in the mold of Tom Waits and Jack Kerouac. Like Waits, his words drip with playful sarcasm and you can’t help but be tickled at his deadpan delivery of “October was a good month/we was getting in shape for the Tabor City Yam Festival” on “Mr. Guitar-Bar-Used Cars.” Clockwork is funny, intelligent and at times, deadly serious, but like any good timepiece, it never skips a beat.
Eye Am Architect — Blood, Bones and Overtones
What is going on in the head of Aslan Freeman? Aside from being an incredibly gifted and versatile musician, he has a penchant for unconventional stylistic experimentation that remains prevalent on his newest creation Blood, Bones and Overtones under the pseudonym Eye Am Architect (www. myspace.com/eyeamarchitect). Though it occasionally produces mixed results, Freeman obviously began with a bold vision for an album in which he would not only write all of the music (except for his cover of Brand New’s “Jesus Christ”), but perform every instrumental and vocal part himself as well. It’s a clever mix of his affected lyrical sensibilities with moody hard rock, calculated progressive, spirited jangle-pop and a little bit of screamo sprinkled in for good measure. Yeah, it’s an odd combination indeed and it doesn’t always come across as intended, but this album is clearly a talented, young guy having fun with his abilities. Opener “Widows” plays like a more intelligent offering from popular nu-metal bands earlier in the decade and he occasionally revisits a similarly saturnine aesthetic, but not as entire pieces. The majority of the album is of a decidedly more optimistic tone like “Whatever It Is I Do,” a thoughtful post-adolescent pining for provisional love that unfortunately gets overburdened by a foray into Linkin Park-like screeching. He plays some soulful keys and his guitar work ranges from funky to heavy to a bit ambient, and it’s that kind of diversity that makes this album stick. The piercing vocal sound had its time years ago and if you strip that away, Blood, Bones and Overtones is an absorbing work by an intriguing artist.
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