Classic Americana Albums: Steve Forbert “Streets of This Town” (Geffen, 1988)

Forbert’s melancholy, introspective, lyrically intriguing songs are delivered with a passionate honesty that has won him many loyal fans over the years. BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris has described Forbert as having, “One of the most distinctive voices anywhere”. That gravelly, southern voice was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1954 where a passion for music was developed.

Moving to New York in 1976, this acoustic guitar, harmonica playing troubadour arrived just in time to be at odds with the city’s burgeoning new wave/punk movement. Demonstrating his innate determination, Forbert graduated from busking the streets of The Big Apple to supporting artists such as Talking Heads and John Cale at CBGB in Manhattan’s East Village.

To date, Fobert’s oeuvre includes twenty studio and three live albums, ‘Streets of this Town’ being sixth in sequence. This 1988 album was released following a protracted legal wrangle with Forbert’s record company but had a cohesion that, to a certain degree, had been lacking in his previous work. Present within the songs are anger and bitterness but also hope and love with a unique philosophical twist that is uniquely Forbert.

The opening track, ‘Running on Love’ immediately grabs you with its introductory melodic hook and provides a heartfelt story of the transformation from bitterness and loneliness to love and hope. At times Forbert’s vocals almost trip over themselves with their exuberance. Throughout the album, the folk-rock feel holds sway to which, ‘Don’t Tell Me, (I Know)’ is no exception with some deliciously twangy lead guitar. ‘I Blinked Once’ feels like a personal friend relating their experience to you, telling you of their childhood and reflections on life whilst the anthemic, ‘As We Live and Breathe’ spins a web of lyrics that captivate, asking the question: “Who could make the clouds and make them move across the sky?/Who could make your mind and put it here to wonder why?” The title track has an irresistible shuffle beat and features Forbert’s trademark harmonica which feels like an extension of his personality. The beautiful, ‘Search your Heart’ concludes the album which moves from verse to a lengthy, impassioned, cathartic chorus leaving you with the perfect imagery of, ‘These golden, clear blue autumn days’.

The rousing, rocky tracks on this album deserve to be listened to with the volume control in its upper reaches though the quieter more reflective tracks also deserve some sonic stimulation; in particular, amongst the latter, the hope ‘Search Your Heart’ inspires, needs shouting about in these dark times.


About Richard Phillips 62 Articles
From the leaden skies of Manchester to the sunny uplands of Cheshire, my quest is for authentic Americana. Love live music, my acoustic guitar and miss my baby (grand piano).
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Andrew Riggs

Great album largely ignored on release produced by Gary Tallent.