The Company You Keep

John Gorka

Red House Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There is something about John Gorka's voice that makes you feel like you've known him all your life - even if you've never heard his music before. There is a richness and warmth that beckons to the listener, inviting them to sit down, have a cup of coffee in front of the fireplace and listen as Gorka tells them tales through his musical craft.

The Company You Keep, the latest collection of folk-oriented songs from Gorka, continues in that pattern, varying between moments of deep thought and personal reflection and lighter moments which help to clear the air at just the right time. In short, it's a wonderful disc.

How well constructed is The Company You Keep? Unless you're reading the liner notes, you might miss the guest appearances by such names as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Michael Manring, Ani DiFranco and Patty Larkin. They become part of the picture that Gorka paints in each one of the 14 songs featured on this disc - not the easiest of feats for any musician to accomplish. But Gorka does it so naturally, allowing their voices and instruments to seamlessly join his creations.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Gorka serves as an Everyman on this disc, making observations about life that we might have seen but never said anything about. Whether it's a wish for candidates for office to strive for a higher ideal ("Oh Abraham"), the difficulties of life and other people ("When I Lost My Faith"), a statement for someone whose life has taken a wrong turn ("When You Walk In") or just reveling in the joys that life has to offer ("A Saint's Complaint"), Gorka spins tales wrapped around his rich baritone vocals and draws you in, to the point that you might find yourself disappointed when the songs end.

Any length of deep thinking requires some form of release, and Gorka recognizes this on The Company You Keep, taking time to lean back and let go with a musical form of belly laughs ("Hank Senior Moment," "People My Age"). The breaks come at the right times on this album, and it helps to re-set the mood and scene for both artist and listener. Well done!

What's a pity is that many people might not give Gorka a fighting chance, simply because this type of music doesn't neatly fit into any one format on the radio - yet another example, kids, of what we call a God-Damn Shame. Sure, Gorka's music isn't pre-packaged to fit the flavor of the moment - but we should be celebrating the fact that someone is willing to record music that cuts against the grain of pop culture. If life were fair, Gorka would be topping the charts with this disc - and one wonders how he would reflect on that in his music. I'm guessing he'd look at it with a cocked eye.

The Company You Keep is not merely an excellent disc; it's an essential disc. It gives the listener a chance to take a 60-minute break from the everyday world and allow themselves to be taken on a journey from story to story, and place to place. There's no clearer way to say it: buy this disc. You'll thank me afterwards.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Red House Records, and is used for informational purposes only.