CD review: John Troy - Just When I Thought I Was Done
John Troy’s solo CD Just When I Thought I Was Done plays out like a large Christmas tree with many ornaments. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t seasonal music. It just has the largeness of the season of numerous gifts and packages.
Troy learned his craft by playing with national touring stars. He was the bass player for the Pousette-Dart Band that broke big with their hit "Amnesia." Troy also toured with Natalie Cole, Bonnie Raitt, John Hall, and Joe Cocker.
Here, Troy’s own musical vision is grand and there are many nice touches and nuances. The whole of the CD was well conceived, and it was fully realized with effective smaller brushes. Troy made the right move when he opted to use an acoustic guitar on every song, channeling a sense of a solo acoustic artist playing alone, even though he has a team of crack musicians on many tracks.
The quiet tone of the lead instrument also allows his mellifluous singing voice to flow and pour like honey over his melodies and grooves. In his quietness, Troy reveals himself as a mature, serious singer-songwriter. His reflections are that of a writer who reveals all the highs and lows of the journey he travels. The songwriter may go down the path of heartbreak, but he has the honesty to admit this and to get it all down in stark detail.
In "The Road I’m On" Troy sings "there was a time my heart was driving/to a bright horizon on an even keel/but my worried mind despaired of arriving/so in fear I took the wheel." By the end the songwriter laments his choices: "give the wheel to your heart/or one day you’ll be on the road I’m on."
A variety of approaches also make this Troy solo effort a winner. "Far Country" opens with Troy singing a bittersweet song over a forlorn melody. His smooth singing voice captures his mixed emotions about a lover who enjoys the love on a level he doesn’t understand. Exquisite picking makes Troy’s acoustic guitar the perfect accompaniment to evoke the otherworldly feel of this song.
He then switches gears in "Nickel & Dime," a peppy acoustic guitar driven number with a near funky rhythm track. This half-spoken song finds Troy listing his complaints about a lover who doesn’t offer enough support, emotionally or financially. This song succeeds with minimal musical accompaniment because its unfailing rhythm allows Troy to make this song tight and bouncy at the same time.
Many of Troy’s compositions are gleefully embellished by regional folk favorites Joyce Anderson on violin and John Curtis on banjo and mandolin. Sal Baglio shows up on one track, and Troy’s usual band mates from his John Troy Band give him a lot of back up. Dave Mattacks is the drummer and David Brown plays acoustic guitar on four tracks.
Troy knows how to have fun with the lyrics. On "That Thing" he sings the praises of a popular young woman who has plenty of style and je sais quoi and a cute butt. This is a fun song that Troy should probably try to license out to a film producer. It would make a great soundtrack song for a montage of images of a popular female character.
But the songwriter soon returns to his emotional honesty in "Find Someone," a touching lament about a man who cannot find the right person to make him complete. Again, Troy’s voice and its near plaintive quality wring the sadness out of this poignant song.
As for the musicianship, Anderson’s violin melody brings home the feeling of "Ralphie," Troy’s tribute to his old canine companion. This song makes it clear that a dog can be a man’s best friend.
This songwriter’s most popular song "When You Turned Out The Light" makes the most of his sad, smooth voice and his bare bones acoustic guitar accompaniment. Troy laments his last night with a love who has admitted she wants to move on. That this will be his final night makes him remember how important his nights with her have been, and the singer sounds his saddest when it also makes him realize he has a more difficult solo journey ahead of him.
Fans of serious singer-songwriters will enjoy this solo effort from Boston’s Mr. I’ve Played With So Many Famous Artists.