The Boston Phoenix
August 20 - 27, 1998

[Music Reviews]

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***1/2 Gary Lucas

BUSY BEING BORN

(Tzadik)

Humor, fear, and virtuosity pal around on New York City-based guitarist Gary Lucas's latest solo release, from John Zorn's label. In theory it's a children's album, but some of these 17 pieces will give little bastards nightmares -- especially "Sandman," which progresses from a prettily chiming figure to deep, dark din as Lucas talks about abduction. Some of the more charming tunes blend Jewish folklore with memories from Lucas's own kidhood: there's the theme from Fiddler on the Roof, notions copped from Marx Brothers movies, and the merry influence of Max and Dave Fleischer's cartoons (Betty Boop, Popeye).

There's also a streak of Delta blues running through the album; it surfaces most dramatically in the ravishing "Shekhinah," an instrumental that unites the sound of deep Mississippi and the female spiritual energy of the Kabala. This album's mostly built around the former Captain Beefheart band member's dynamic acoustic and National-steel-guitar playing, but when his electric six-string surfaces in "Abie the Fishman," which explores issues of Jewish identity in its ironic humor, the result is a blazing sonic rip.

-- Ted Drozdowski
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