Thursday, April 3, 2008

Roesy's Masks

Roesy's Masks

by Jesse Schmitt

I don’t know where my head has been these last years. I’m very impressed how so-so musical acts can get all this play, everywhere; and for the last four years or more this amazing singer, songwriter, and guitar player has been lurking in the shadows. Alas, this is the way for the American music industry (“Can I get a what-what”) but never fear as the world stage continues not to let us down.

From the Irish artist known as Roesy comes the 2006 release “Colour Me Colourful.” When I first heard this record I was flummoxed with a mixture of restrained jubilation and anticipatory depression as I felt I’d already missed something huge. The fact is that Roesy is still around and for any fans of off-the-mainstream, acoustic pop, his soft spoken excellence will sweep you off your feet and take you off and away.

Roesy’s image, standing in a purple chef’s jacket holding his guitar on the blacktop backdrop which is colored in psychedelic Rastafarian paints; I was taken back to the late 1980’s. To the uninformed eye, you’d think that this poor guy stumbled onto the photo shoot at a Milli Vanilli sound stage. It seems as though that this photo shoot is where his album title came from. Further research would reveal that Roesy actually has an impressive art resume as well. But on this record, the art is in the music and the Colours are certainly there in the songs and in the musician.

Roesy’s sound seems a strange amalgam of every one of my favorite musicians of the last fifty years. It’s a little bit hard to describe. He’s European; Irish, so, there you go; there are definite vocal similarities with Crowded House; but there are also hints of Cat Stevens, those Gallagher brothers, and, on first listen, I kept going back to Thom Yorke. Maybe it was the Euro lilt; though it seemed to be much more. Roesy’s songs are nothing like Radiohead. They’re more like Radiohead doing lullaby’s. Or Jazz. There is a definite homage to some of the American jazz greats; Duke, Louis; but there’s a free form about the music which reminded me of Mingus, Coltrane, Cobham. I hear the Eagles, I hear Steely Dan, I hear Paul Simon and I hear none of them. This is a sound which washed over me with its simplistically beautiful originality.

Colour Me Colourful starts out with fingers snapping, wind blowing, jazzy electric piano, soft saxophone, hypnotic harmonies and this lead singer who has the commanding presence of Leonard Cohen. “Shape shift me, walk with me, stay a while; trying to shake the devil down.”

As one door closes, a second opens wide and you feel like you’re listening to The Counting Crows or some other lively pop band. His plaintive cry on “One of the Same,” reminds me or Adam Durnitz which made me feel as though this is some mix CD. I was vexed until Roesy broke out in this songs chorus, “And I said baby we’re all one in the same; together in joy, together in pain.” And there he is again; this large voice which opens up and calls out “nobody’s got it stitched or got it all sewn.”

It kept going on and on like that; I was repeatedly challenged every time the track changed. I had to listen to this record twice just to be sure I heard it all right. From the hypnotic conspirator of “Get to the Ocean;” to the gentle strumming of “Home It Has Flown;” or the aggressive beat of “Propellor” to the gentle finale of “Don’t Be Afraid;” you are never sure what it is that you’re listening to.

And that’s okay. As music gets more and more the same old stuff just rehashed in uninteresting and dull ways, it’s really encouraging to hear an artist who is able to take what’s come before him and honor the sound without raping it. Roesy is hopeful which seems to be congruent of the mood of many in my circles. It’s not sugar-coated however; Roesy’s a realist as well. Listen closely to the lyrics, as he sings on the finale track, and you’ll know too; “In these modern days, a troubled mind is all the rage, oh please when you fall low, know that I will hear you, know that I won’t judge you.”

In a music industry that’s just reeling and stifled and groping and feeling, Roesy is an artist who brings promise for a brighter tomorrow.

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