Jen's Cobbler

Envywaits

Independent release, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/13/2000

On first glance, it would be easy to pass up Jen's Cobbler, the independent release from Virginia-based Envywaits. (If you've read "The Daily Vault" for some time, you'll remember we did a review of a group named Opus Jones; Envywaits was formed from the ashes of that group.) The simple packaging gives no hint as to what kind of music is contained therein, and some people might not get past the basic looks of the CD. Even yours truly, the seasoned old music critic, left this disc languishing in the "to be reviewed" piles of the Pierce Memorial Archives before something told me I should get off my duff and review the disc. (Usually, that something is an e-mail from a publicist or the band themselves... not this time.)

Go ahead, put aside your first visual impressions of this disc. Put it in the CD player. Now, put on the headphones, sit back in a comfortable chair, and take an hour out of your life. This duet of guitarist Patrick Hughes and vocalist Marc Dixon is absolutely phenomenal, crafting some of the best folk-based pop since I first was exposed to artists like David Wilcox.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Prepare to have your emotional doors blown clean off their hinges at times. Envywaits magically captures raw emotion and puts it into words, a skill which is guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings from time to time. Personally, I have difficulty getting through a song like "Christopher's Song," a song written to Hughes's then-unborn child. It's not just that the song is hauntingly beautiful, but it's that such a song, telling of the selflessness of the parent, makes me feel like I've failed more than I've succeeded in rasing my own child, and how much sometimes I hate being a parent when the job gets difficult. Songs like "Christopher's Song" almost rub it in, making the job sound like a cake walk for some people.

In the same vein, some people might find it hard to get through a song like "Monty," which deals with the way children can be cruel to someone who doesn't neatly fit into the neighborhood cliques. I fully expected this one to have a "Jeremy"-type tragic ending, but it didn't. The conclusion of the story is a little far-fetched, but it does show how the neighborhood dweeb can become the most respected person - leaving even the bullies in awe.

Throughout the bulk of Jen's Cobbler, Envywaits shows just how much power can come from one guitar and one vocal. Yes, I could see a bass, piano and drums in the mix at times, but Hughes and Dixon keep the listener's interest throughout this disc, something hard to do for such a stripped-down group. Tracks like "Just A Thought," "Voices," "Mixed Emotions" and "Leaving Pain" all should leave the listener feeling happily drained by the time the disc ends... and you'll find yourself wanting to put this particular disc on permanent rotation in your CD player.

Envywaits is the kind of group that doesn't neatly fit into any one particular genre - and that's perfectly all right. It would be nice to see a more specialized label (you listening, American Gramaphone? Narada? Rounder?) give this band a chance to prove themselves to the world. Until then, Jen's Cobbler is proof enough for me that this band is pure magic. Here's hoping they don't remain a localized secret for long. Go ahead, have yourself a slice... what the hell, make it a double, and don't feel guilty about it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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