Not Far Now

Richard Shindell

Amalgamated Balladry , 2008

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Richard Shindell is one of the better singer/songwriters you’ve probably never heard of.

I’m still working my way through his catalog. His is a career refreshingly and sadly free of any major fame; despite working with folks like Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky, and Joan Baez, he remains relatively little known in either his home country of the United States or his adopted homeland of Argentina (his wife is an Argentinian professor).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That’s too damn bad. Shindell is a master of the first-person snapshot; of turning a small moment of time, a brief encounter, a single Polaroid of life into a work of art. His 2008 album Not Far Now is full of these frozen moments of song; his ability to paint pictures with musical notes puts me in mind of the late Bill Morrissey or Dan Fogelberg.

The musicianship and production on Not Far Now is competent, if not outstanding. Shindell’s voice is conversational and pleasant; if there’s a flaw to this work, it’s that sometimes (for example, on “Mariana’s Table”) he begins to become hard to understand, less precise. Just because you’re a folkie doesn’t mean you have to mangle diction like Bob Dylan. It’s a shame that it isn’t easier to understand the heartbreaking lyrics on “One Man’s Arkansas.” Shindell’s songwriting is astonishing; his delivery leaves a bit to be desired.

That said, there are some home runs on this disc. The double-shot of “Gethsemani Goodbye” and “A Juggler Out In Traffic” are like a swift punch in the gut or a double-shot of tequila; “The Mountain” shimmers in its elegant simplicity; and “Balloon Man” turns whimsy on its head into a deep place of sadness.

Not Far Now is not a great album; there are too many misses with Shindell’s voice. But as a collection of songs, it’s very, very good.

Rating: B-

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