Twisted Love Songs
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2007, Volume 14, #9
Written by Douglas Heselgrave
Fri September 7, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
With today’s music business being what it is, it’s hard to know exactly how to describe Twisted Love Songs, the latest offering from singer-guitarist David Gans. In another age — one that isn’t being deluged with recordings, downloads, high-profile concert tours, and multimillion-dollar recording contracts — Gans would just be a man with a guitar and a suitcase full of songs. Occasionally, he might arrive in a town where people would gather in a living room, a saloon, or a town hall to listen to his humorous tales of love, loss, and redemption, and they’d leave feeling better for the experience.
The 16 tracks that are collected on Twisted Love Songs are all well-played, passionately sung, and presented in simple, bare-bones arrangements, and this allows the listener to focus upon his compositions. Best-known as a chronicler of the Grateful Dead’s history and the host of the Grateful Dead Hour, Gans’ musical output always will be judged by his proximity to the band. In many ways, these associations are a disservice to him. Gans is not as good a guitarist as Jerry Garcia — who is? — and his songs haven’t developed the multiplicity of layers and emotional connections that the Grateful Dead’s songs achieved over the course of 40-odd years. It is unfair to judge him in this light, but considering how much of his audience is made up of Deadheads, it is perhaps inevitable.
Indeed, some of the lovely guitar explorations in tunes such as Cassidy’s Cat – San Rafael Swell are influenced by Garcia’s acoustic work, and there are in-jokes and associations scattered throughout Twisted Love Songs that will resonate with Grateful Dead fans everywhere. This is impossible to avoid. When taken in isolation, however, the music owes as much to the "everyman" philosophy of artists such as Woody Guthrie, John Prine, and Steve Goodman as it does to Gans’ San Francisco neighbors.
When Gans lets the music flow through him — that is, when he doesn’t concentrate on being witty and clever or dropping subtle Dead references — his songs are better for it. Nevertheless, although he does fall prey to these affectations, Twisted Love Songs is an enjoyable, light, and bouncy ride from its beginning to its end. The album is not going to rock anyone’s world, nor will it change the way anyone listens to music. It is, however, a collection of worthy compositions that are honest and pure. They are just as good as they need to be.
There simply aren’t enough people these days with the guts to pick up their guitar and jump alone and unencumbered into the fray, filling the void with music. David Gans is pursuing an honorable path, and Twisted Love Songs is its most recent manifestation. In a market that is overburdened by hype, where songs are products, and concerts are little more than commercials, Gans’ music and approach ignite a little light that burns in the darkness. He deserves every bit of attention and support that he gets. ½
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box