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Steve Forbert

Cool contemporary folk music with a tinge of country, singer-songwriter STEVE FORBERT (born Samuel Stephen Forbert, December 13, 1954, Meridian, Mississippi) was hailed as “the new DYLAN” when his first album appeared in 1978. From playing in rock bands to busking in Grand Central Station in New York, then on to the bright lights of the Manhattan circuit, the former truck driver turned guitarist (with his trusty harmonica) had come a long way in such a short space of time.
The debut in question, ALIVE ON ARRIVAL {*7} was in sharp contrast to the new wave music of the day, but tracks like `Thinkin’’ (his signature tune of sorts), the autobiographical `Grand Central Station, March 18, 1977’ and `Goin’ Back To Laurel’ were appealing to a slightly older generation stuck in the 60s.
Nemperor Records (affiliated with C.B.S. at the time) were rewarded with a major hit single `Romeo’s Tune’ and a Top 20 sophomore set JACKRABBIT SLIM (1979) {*7}, a record that updated his storytelling by way of `January 23-30, 1978’ and `Say Goodbye To Little Jo’.
But his folk appeal was fading as fast as his star; his subsequent session-friendly soft-rock sets kicked off with LITTLE STEVIE ORBIT (1980) {*6}, while Nashville beckoned for him after his eponymous “pop” set STEVE FORBERT (1982) {*4}, a disappointment to his flock and critics who tore into his cover of JACKIE DeSHANNON’s `When You Walk In The Room’.
Contractual disagreements and the refusal of his label to release his fifth album ensued, until Geffen took up the option in 1988. By this time, a new producer had been found in Garry Tallent (from the E Street Band), but STREETS OF THIS TOWN {*6} was no SPRINGSTEEN classic; the flop single `Running On Love’ was typical 80s pop-rock fodder. Ditto for another long-awaited set THE AMERICAN IN ME (1992) {*5}.
Tallent was also behind FORBERT’s 1995’s MISSION OF THE CROSSROAD PALMS {*5} set, although his halcyon days looked behind him, while the DYLAN tag was rejuvenated by way of `Lay Down Your Weary Tune Again’, a country-flavoured folk ballad with a bit of wit. With Brad Jones bringing a alt-country-rock band WILCO for ROCKING HORSE HEAD (1996) {*4}, Steve’s voice was beginning to sound like a weaker ROD STEWART or TOM PETTY rather than any rootsy rocker.
The post-millennium era positioned him a little closer to his old self, albums such as EVERGREEN BOY (2000) {*6}, JUST LIKE THERE’S NOTHIN’ TO IT (2004) {*6}, STRANGE NAMES AND NEW SENSATIONS (2007) {*5}, THE PLACE AND THE TIME (2009) {*6} and studio demos OVER WITH YOU {*6} were acceptable recordings, while a few live collections and a JIMMIE RODGERS C&W tribute ANY OLD TIME (2002) {*5} were slight diversions.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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