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Vincent CrossVincent Cross
Album: Old Songs For Modern Folk
Label: Rescue Dog
Tracks: 11

Yet another case of a name that was entirely new to me, altho' the artist concerned has already released two albums! This is self-styled "New-York-City-based rustic folk singer and songwriter" Vincent's third release, and it's different from its predecessors (both full-band albums, I'm told) in that it's a proudly, unashamedly bare-bones, vox-plus-guitar-or-banjo, live-straight-to-tape-in-one-take affair, raw and uncompromisingly honest.

Vincent's role as latter-day troubadour is both fully intended and assured with this album, on whose self-penned songs he addresses modern life and its issues in a fashion that harks straight back to the masters of the genre like Guthrie and Dylan before him who made songs from the old songs - and without smacking (even unintentionally) of pastiche. The second track, Michael Brown, musically deliberately references Mississippi John Hurt's classic Louis Collins in its candid account of police brutality; Freeport Town (evidently a cousin of the Darling Cory family of songs) is a present-day equivalent of a murder ballad and, and Going Down That Road is but a rewrite of the usual song of that name; the remainder of Vincent's compositions have the ring of total authenticity, whether they're discussing the politics that can't escape being "in the air" and all around us (labour exploitation in Pakistan on standout cut Garments Of Shame, or the modern immigrant experience powerfully expressed on The Ballad Of Roosevelt Avenue). Diversity in modern America is addressed through the approved country-folk idiom of Zora's Blues, while other songs tackle wider, perennial issues like loneliness in the big city (Dark Hollow) or the folk performer achieving immortality through one's art (Ode To An Old Guitar). Finally, there's some gentle satire, in As The Crow Flies and Passing Through.

Vincent sure knows and appreciates the power of the vernacular, and his songs are steeped in that tradition. His time-honoured brand of rough-hewn observational song will always find a ready audience among those willing to listen.

David Kidman