Jack-Knife Gypsy

Jack-Knife Gypsy

Paul Siebel continues in the folk-storyteller mode that made his debut release, Woodsmoke and Oranges, so memorable. This time out, the Buffalo-born singer/songwriter opts for a more produced sound, enlisting such notable guest players as Byrds guitarist Clarence White and Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw. Siebel’s pinched, road-seasoned vocals give these tunes the feel of traditional ballads (albeit somewhat surreal ones). Narratives like “Jasper and the Miners,” “Legend of the Captain’s Daughter," and the title track add weird twists to familiar tales of working men, bandits, and fair maidens. With quick strokes, Siebel sketches portraits of oddball losers (“Uncle Dudley”), barroom angels (“Hillbilly Child”), and hapless outlaws (“Pinto Pony”), mixing absurdist humor with pathos. Dark ruminations like “Chips Are Down” are lightened by the reverent “Prayer Song.” Robert Zachary’s production combines country-rock arrangements with touches of strings and brass in spots. Lyrically vivid and filled with idiosyncratic personality, Jack-Knife Gypsy recalls Townes Van Zandt and Jimmie Dale Gilmore in its hard-bitten visionary grace.

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