Friday, August 02, 2013

Still Trout Fishing in America After All These Years

How much is enough? When do you have too much of a good thing? Why am I making a positive sound like a negative?

Indeed, Trout Fishing in America (TFA) have graced listeners in five decades (!!) with their fine melodies, nimble lyrics, and clever wordplay. Now the duo of Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet are back with their latest CD, RUBBER BABY BUGGY BUMPERS. It's another dozen songs of childhood adventure, fantasy, and whimsy.

From the lead track to "My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend," you're in for the navel-high worldview of a kid. Ben (12) went properly bonkers over the latter song, featuring copious wet kissing noises. When we started to sing along, the mere thought of his parents being affectionate drove him from the dinner table. "It's Not Mud" ominously encapsulates every "bottom of your shoe" nightmare:

It's not chocolate, it's not raisins
It's not Milk Duds and it's not fudge.
It's not brown, stick icky ice cream.
I know what it is – it's not mud.

There comes a point in the lifespan of a recording artist (or group) when they cease to be easily pigeonholed into one category. For instance, Pink Floyd spent 20 years being pegged as "art rock" along with Yes. But now they are sui generis. Essentially, they became their own thing. Trout Fishing in America is a little bit country, a little bit folk, etc. After recording together since 1976, TFA deserves its title as "sui generis" as well. Not a bad thing.

Perhaps the band's most personal song on the CD is "Don't Touch My Stuff," written in response to their van being stolen, along with all their musical instruments. Some of the instruments showed up on ebay and they say it was "fun" to watch the auctions, while they notified the authorities. But you can hear genuine anger and hurt in lyrics like "You want his banjo? You can't play the banjo!" and especially "How can you sleep at night?"

I can't think of enough superlatives for Trout Fishing in America. They know their shi...stuff. If audiences hadn't taken to them, TFA would not have lasted this long. Few acts, especially children-related performers, have demonstrated this level of consistency, competence, and command over a sustained time period. Kudos to the duo as they move forward towards their sixth decade of performance.

RUBBER BABY BUGGY BUMPERS is available September 3 through the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is a fan recording of their song, "Don't Touch My Stuff":

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