Listen Up: Wednesday, March 20, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Will Gillham

Crow (Scowling Yogi Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Acoustic performers have been taking it on the chin at least since John Belushi smashed Stephen Bishop’s guitar to smithereens in 1978’s Animal House, or maybe since Bob Dylan plugged in and rendered the idea of “folk music” obsolete back in 1965. Stereotyped as self-indulgent saps mewling their confessional poesy in coffeehouses and at open-mic nights, they seem a tad, uh, irrelevant in an age when sensory overload demands noise and glitz from performers who want to hold the interest of attention-challenged audiences. But in the hands of a skilled artisan, acoustic music offers possibilities for direct, immediate communication not found in other music.

Will Gillham is a Fort Worth singer-songwriter who records c.d.’s in the living room and porte cochere (that’s a carport for you non-Francophones) of his co-conspirator, guitarist Kevin Grove. No way, though, could this stuff be mistaken for back-porch pickin’-and-grinnin’. Rather, Gillham and Grove use their lo-tech recording setup to create an intimate ambience, and they frame their story-songs in the sparest possible accompaniment, forcing the listener to focus on Gillham’s rough-hewn voice and world-weary lyrics.

Gillham has the good taste to steal ideas from the likes of Albert Camus and Lou Reed, and his songs reflect a dark sensibility, whether he’s singing about alienation and anomie (“Susan B. Anthony Dollar,” “In This World”), random violence (“Kitchen Song”), paranoia (“Get a Gun”), or that ol’ standby Death (the title track). “Banker” could have been written during the Depression but speaks eloquently of post-9/11 economic desperation. When Gillham finally waxes romantic in “Song for Her,” the sentiment seems credible for being so hard-won.


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