John Stewart and Buffy Ford: Signals Through The Glass

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“Exceedingly sensitive and compassionate portrait of contemporary America.  You have achieved in song what I attempt in paint. Congratulations.”

James Wyeth is quoted on the back cover which adequately sums up the feel of the album. After reading this poignant quote and turning the cover over to the front, it all makes sense. The cut up transparencies sandwiched together, burned in, partially washed out, and distorted–all tell the visual story of the tracks contained herein.

Side one starts out with the composition, “Lincoln’s Train”. The song gives one the feel of waiting for a train to catch a glimpse of a dead president’s corpse. The interweaving voices sort of give it a strange psychedelic feel to it. It doesn’t quite sound right the first time, does after multiple listens.

It especially fits into place by the next song, “Holly On My Mind”, a mysteriously sounding track with a  tastefully composed string section, only adding to the spookiness and the cloudy vision of the album’s theme.

“Mucky Truckey River”, the record’s third track, if you can surmise from the rhyming of the title, sounds like it should be on a Goldebriar’s album instead. Sounds somewhat out of place, however other listeners might disagree.

“Nebraska Widow”, the  album’s next band, certainly makes up for the last song. It gets right back to the underlying theme of the album. Sparse. Simple. Beautiful.

Side One’s closer, “July You’re a Woman”, is reminiscent of a much more simpler time when getting drunk out of your mind was still okay.

Side Two, begins with the dramatic “Dark Prairie”. One can imagine storm clouds forming from what look like miles away on the Northern Plains and playing this song to accompany the foreboding mood. The next three songs all sort of flow together; the listener doesn’t really notice where one ends and begins, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

The side’s last song, “Draft Age”, is about a young man getting his draft card in the mail as a birthday gift, which as many already know, was a popular theme to explore in the sixties. This song only adds to the already tough prairie life and the disquieting sense of the record and the compositions contained.

“Signals Through The Glass” is a fine album to explore when one has already listened to all of the commercial folk/ psych artists of the time. It’s a minor gem that I’d place somewhere between Simon Finn and The Poppy Family if my record collection was that organized.  It’s been reissued a few times throughout the years, so a clean copy should be fairly easy to find for little money.

 

 

 

 

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