Some of you may remember a little band called Buffalo
Tom. Some of you may not. After more than 15 years, they
are still in existence, and still making music that rocks
the metaphorical socks off of your feet. But Bill Janovitz,
lead singer for Buffalo Tom, decided that it was time to step
back and record an album of quieter songs, just him and (mostly)
an acoustic guitar. Unlike his more country sounding past
solo effort (Lonesome Billy), this record has more
of a sense of a peaceful soul, with a folky feel to the songs.
Up Here is an album overflowing with sentiment and
originality, but with a flavor unmistakably similar (albeit
it much, much more subdued) to that of Buffalo Tom, minus
the distortions and erstwhile noisiness. More focus is lent
to the songs, rather than the beat and the immediate power,
and so the songs become even more powerful in their sparse
and beautiful arrangements.
She was cute in a drippy sort of wayÖOdd lyrics floating
above a highly trembling organ line and a sensible solid acoustic
guitar part highlight the opening track, "Atlantic".
The mood for the album is set in the first few minutes, and
Bill really warms up the vocal cords for what is to come.
"Best Kept Secret" swings along on a trip of steel
guitar moodiness, a soul lonely and drifting. "Up Here"
is a dark song, full of intensity and emotional exploration.
The stark combination of Billís voice and his acoustic guitar
make for a pleasurably concentrated listen. Long time collaborator
Chris Toppin joins in on harmony vocals on "Half
A Heart", creating a beautifully earthy feeling to a
beautifully well-orchestrated song. Piano accompanies the
ever-present acoustic guitar, and fleshes out the arrangement
with a nice solo. "Your Strangerís Face" waltzes
its way right into the strings of your heart, much like a
good old Willy Nelson song may have been able to do
at one time before the IRS took over. With special lo-fi additives
and some great harmony vocals, this song is a treasure to
listen to. Maybe the most sympathetic song on the album, "Goodnight,
Wherever You Are", makes the impression of (not so drunk)
Tom Waits singing lullabies replete with sing-songy lyrical
"Minneapolis" is a John Cougar-like story
of questing for what is lost and seemingly found. It is a
profoundly intimate portrait of the girl in the story, and
perhaps of our songwriter, as well. More of an American folk
sound once again comes out on "Like You Do" and
the lyrics are clever and simple, all at once, reaffirming
that No one understands me like you do. A very nice
Dylan-esque harmonica solo and slide guitar work makes
this song a joy to listen to. "Like Shadows" reminds
my ear of Jackopierce in their heyday, and some wonderful
guitar tones really add a depth to the music, and render the
story even more poignant. And like a man who has lost his
faith, a fellow man who rues the day when love came down and
carried him away. But not for me these callow truths, Iíve
learned one thing from hollow youth, to hold on to the good
things that Iíve gotÖ but please come back, my heart attacks
me on my own. "Light In December" is a nice,
lighter story of memories of youth and the lessons learned
in those times. Ending the album on a bit more of an upbeat
story, "Long Island" is laced with background vocals
and delicate lyrical fragments. Once again invoking memories
of places and loves lost and long gone, with a bittersweet
guitar solo, this song packs more emotion than most songs
ever heard on the radio anymore.
For fans of the Buffalo Tom legacy, or for folks more deeply
involved in a love affair with excellent songs and fabulous
presentation, this album is a must have. The songs are deep
and beautiful, and the music is wonderfully soothing and provocative
at the same instant. Bill Janovitz has here-in proven that
he is not only capable of putting the r in rock, but also
more than able to present the singer-songwriter aspects of
his complex and intricate soul. Each song is a detailed portrait
of some piece of the writer from varying times in his life.
Billís notes in the liner are a wonderful personal way to
see these songs in perhaps a different light than one would,
were they just to listen to the songs; and perhaps better
understand ourselves through his songs.
On my infamous alt-country scale of 1 to 10, 1 being much,
much better than a Billy Ray Cyrus could ever dream
of being, and 10, of course, being Johnny Cash, Bill
Janovitz sits nicely in at about an 8.3.
Ė David DeVoe
- Best Kept Secret
- Up Here
- Half A Heart
- Your Strangerís Face
- Goodnight, Wherever You Are
- Like You Do
- Like Shadows
- Light In December
- Long Island
in the webboard
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!