Review: 'Careless' by Richard Shindell

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"Careless" (2016) by Richard ShindellReview of “Careless” by Richard Shindell. Originally reviewed on September 26th, 2016.

I'm continually appalled that Richard Shindell doesn't have a bigger following than he does, even though he resides in a genre that is perhaps not at the forefront of popularity these days, the folk singer/songwriter. Even given his street address on the margins of the musical industry, his music should be a Mecca to which true lovers of the well-crafted and poignant folk song should trek. I've been fans of other less popular artists before, and often they disappoint as their lack of monetary success wears on them artistically. Richard Shindell has had ups and downs in his output, but Careless is among the best music he has ever created. He continues to create amazing music. I bought the album after hearing a Folkways recording of one of its tracks, The Deer on the Parkway. It took a couple of listenings, but it's now firmly among my top 2 or 3 of his albums.

Richard Shindell specializes in finding the oddest of perspectives, and then making you ache at the amount of pathos and understanding he evokes from that strange worldview. Stray Cow Blues is from the perspective of a cow that's lost his herd and pasture and has gotten stuck in the mud. It sounds comic, and there is a piece of that there, but it's also strangely moving. The Deer on the Parkway is about exactly what it describes, and it perfectly captures the emotional states of the two individuals in the scene, the deer standing in the headlights next to a busy highway, and the person in the car, wondering if the animal will dart out and cause a tragedy. It's Robert Frost-ian in its natural stillness.

Usually, one or two tracks on his best albums instantly get stuck in my mind as a source of epiphany. Transit, from his album Courier, is one. Another is Hazel's House from Vuelta. On this album, it's Satellites. The scene is as strangely, arbitrarily offbeat as any he picks, a labor protest in the streets of a city, the scene covered by an on-site news producer. But the music is perfect and it captures something essential about our time. Something is wrong in the world, but in the end, people are people, and being human is fundamentally both endlessly changing, and unchangingly fixed. That seems to be the unifying theme of the miniature stories he tells.

It is a bit surprising that more of his new adopted homeland of Argentina hasn't seeped into his songwriting. He still seems preternaturally of New Jersey. Of course, the scene in Satellites could be in South America, you don't know. He's tried writing in his adopted language before, the wonderful Cancion Sencilla off of Vuelta is the one I know about, but I hope he tries more of that in the future.

I'd encourage anyone who likes a well crafted lyric and a great tenor voice to give this album a try.