Thief Of Time
Roaring Stream, 2007
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/14/2007
No longer making smooth jazz-type music, Traum has gone back to a rootsier singer/songwriter vibe for his new disc Thief Of Time. Recruiting King Crimson's Tony Levin on bass, as well as other special guests and key players, Traum's new disc is a subdued but compelling affair, excellent driving or coffeeshop music.
A strong Steely Dan vibe permeates the music, giving this a touch of jazz, because one can never let go of their roots. But instead of settling for predictable, Traum and his band give the songs a tasteful, heartfelt feel, particularly the opening "Bonnie Jean" and "Halifax."
"Midnight Blue" features some great acoustic picking and background vocals, and "Back In The Sugar Cane" offers a quiet Brazilian beat and vocals from Donna Lewis. It's difficult to pull off this sort of music without regurgitating the many male acoustic singer/songwriters or smooth jazz pieces out there, but Traum somehow does it, and that's to his everlasting credit.
Other reviews call this Americana music, which it's really not, except maybe for the Delta blues-esque "Where The Blues Began." It's more a mix of folk and jazz led by Traum, who Pete Seeger once said had "golden fingers." So classifying this isn't a good use of time. Letting it work its magic is a better idea.
The best example of those golden fingers is "Cuckoo Bird," a warm, intimate folk piece with more going on than its surface would indicate. "Last Tree In The Bronx" is similar, a sad piece with a country vibe, and not just because of the story it tells.
Thief Of Time will appeal to fans of folk music, acoustic singer/songwriter music, the blues and jazz. One has to be in the mood to really appreciate it, since it's a little too subdued at times, but when in that mood this disc strikes the perfect chord. The exchange of solid songwriting for excitement or emotion would be welcome also, as a couple of these tracks just aren't memorable, no matter how many times one tries to like them.
That is not the case when John Sebastian drops by to put some baritone guitar on "Insult A Man," which adds another dimension to a downbeat song of regret, sounding a little like a Springsteen meets Johnny Cash piece. "Country Boy Blues" ends the disc with no fanfare, no flourish, but with taste and class. Just like the rest of the disc.