Art and Craft: Richard Shindell, Not Far Now

By Daniel Garrett

Richard Shindell, Not Far Now
Signature Sounds Recordings, 2009

Richard Shindell’s song collection Not Far Now has songs of craft, imagination, and thought, and while it is a thing of beauty, it comes to us as one more in a long line of singer-songwriter works, and thus one is compelled to understand how and why it is to be valued as special. What’s new, unique? Richard Shindell’s voice can move high or deep, and be delicate or heavy, and his subjects include private emotion and public scenes; and, his musical arrangements and textures are lovely. The song “Parasol Ants” tells a story of a man lying on the ground, a man whose form and force are formidable, even godlike, to much smaller creatures such as ants. “A Juggler Out in Traffic” creates a modern tableau, though it is sung with a soft voice against a string arrangement that recalls a traditional English ballad. The narrator in “Gethsemani Goodbye,” with a fine, unwavering balance, describes how he lost his way and went too far, while “Que Hago Ahora” is sung in a thick Spanish voice. The diversity of Shindell’s songs proves his talent.

Ten years after a daughter’s leave-taking, her parents, isolated in different ways, still remember her in “Bye Bye” on Not Far Now; and the narrator of the song wonders if he should invent a reconciliation. It is easy then to wonder, When is the reconciliation that art offers solace and when is it merely a lie? “Mariana’s Table” is contemplative, pretty. The composition “State of the Union” is a drug addict’s tale, a tale of rehabilitation and reconciliation—and recidivism; and the intricacy of the music corresponds to the complexity of the tale (one has a sense of climbing and descending stairs that are not the same height, length, or width). There is “One Man’s Arkansas” and the subtly uptempo “Get Up Clara” on Not Far Now, as well as the song “The Mountain” which is about life and death, and its central character, reared by merchants and drug store liars, walks with one foot in ice and one in fire; it is a metaphysical and metaphorical song. “Balloon Man” provides a slow waltz. Richard Shindell’s Not Far Now is a collection as fantastic as it is fine.

Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, AllAboutJazz.com, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Muse-Apprentice-Guild.com, Offscreen.com, Option, PopMatters.com, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. He has written fiction, poetry, drama, journalism, and criticism. Daniel Garrett’s web log at Blogger.com, focused on culture and society, is called “City and Country, Boy and Man.” His e-mail addresses are D.Garrett.Writer@gmail.com and dgarrett31@hotmail.com

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