A Different View from a Double-Wide

Every once in a while, a folk artist takes a genuinely new viewpoint and carries it to its limits. Jim Infantino and Faith Soloway illustrate such integrity of vision. So does Al Rose. Let’s not invoke the name of every important new voice of the last 30 years; there’s no way of knowing if this guy is or wants to be the next Leonard Cohen, or whoever. Instead, here’s a look at Al Rose’s CD, Naked in a Trailer.

The title track makes the listener stare down the issues of chance- taking, feelings of self-worth and the destructive alternative: self- loathing. The lyrical persona wonders if he’ll be a success or end up… “naked in a trailer with a gun inside my mouth.” Heady stuff. No pop hooks here, but plenty of thought-provoking words and unsettling minor chords.

There’s a rather disturbing jazz-tinged piece called “Delirium Exacto” that raises questions about the listener’s self-indulgence. “Everything Is Flexible” is oddly optimistic. There’s even a relationship/love song, but no sugary cooing in “Hurry Back.” Lyrics like these make “Vote For Me” far different from a cheap-shot poke at candidates’ fakery.

I am pausing for a breath mint
That I suck to change my breath
I go from onion cloud to pine tree on a dime
The invisible protector that has saved me more than once
I am a wint-o-green believer in my prime

Rose’s singing is idiosyncratic, but not irritating. He plays guitar, harmonica and flute effectively. The band, The Transcendos, offers skill and taste, as do other side players. You’ll hear everything from shenai, to bagpipes, to dobro in just about the right amounts. Some tracks rock, most simply lure you in.

This recording stopped me dead in my tracks. But then, my taste runs to the unusual to begin with. Was it just me, or is Al Rose a real grabber? To gauge the “grab quotient” of Naked in a Trailer I conducted an experiment: I opened my office door and turned up the speakers slightly… not so much that the volume alone would attract attention. Sure enough, others came in, sat down and said, “What’s this? And they stayed for more.

No, this is not party music – that is, unless you have your guests sit around and listen to Naked in a Trailer together. You’ll be talking about Al Rose’s ideas into the wee hours.

— Marilyn Rea Beyer, New England Folk Almanac Review, Winter 1998