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"Out of Fashion" Reviews

City Pages - The Wausau Area News & Entertainment Weekly
January 16-23, 2003

Jim Carlson is the all-around music man. He’s the guy who has a regular performance gig at the Scott Street Steak and Pub and travels to Europe to compose and record his stuff (getting away and not knowing the language of his surroundings helps him focus, he says). His latest CD release, "Out of Fashion", is filled with mostly minimally-produced songs, all of which, he says, are stylistically not “in” right now as the CD’s title suggests. But that approach, as everyone in this age of irony knows, is exactly what makes it so cool.

W. Keith Roerdink
Freelance Writer

When you arrive at one of those poignant moments in life but struggle to put it into words, singer-songwriter Jim Carlson has saved you the trouble. On "Out of Fashion," Carlson's first full-length studio effort, he gives the sense of a man on a journey who turns around just long enough to properly digest and pay tribute to those times that most affected him.

This CD is a collection of stops, poured out into pint-sized glasses for listeners who can easily drink up Carlson's tales of relationships gone good, bad and totally unexpected. Carlson's stripped-down guitar play melds perfectly with an introspective storyteller's voice that samples both John Prine and eclectic English band James with natural ease.

"Name" is an inviting opening track that sets the tone for this acoustic-driven ride. When he sings, "Not calling to say hello or see how I am, just calling to lean on a friend," he touches on the unenviable feeling of being needed, rather than wanted. The tempo picks up and draws you in on the blame-themed "Gun," then mellows on "Bridge," as Carlson explores the metaphorical and physical divisions of relationships and the Wisconsin town he grew up in.

Gentle drums and shakers are the perfect backdrop to Carlson's guitar and vocals on "For You," one of the gems on "Out of Fashion." A crowd favorite during Carlson's live performances, it's impossible to not bob your head and tap your foot when this comes through the speakers.

"Time Flies" is a short, sad reflection with a definite country flair. That gives way to the even shorter, "Feel," which seems like a deliberate upbeat response to the tears in the beer emoting of "Time Flies." It's vintage Carlson on "November," then on to the decidedly different but thoroughly enjoyable "Neon Light." The former hard rocker stretches out vocally on this track and it's short, sudden strumming is an ideal match.

After "Thinking," a little ditty that's the emotional flipside to "Time Flies," it's on to "The Shining," a compelling and passionate cover of a relatively unknown James tune. Carlson's been playing it so long live it's nearly become his own. Clearly, at home with his original work, Carlson's joy performing this song "shines" through.

"Gates of the Country" is another longtime cover (Black Lab), and as has happened previously on "Out of Fashion," Carlson makes a seemingly conscious effort to offer a melancholy echo to the previous track. With building defiance, Carlson sings "and I smile as I watch her walk by, somehow I see all those ships in her eyes, she's better off now."

Jim tabs James once more on closing track "Just Like Fred Astaire," before breaking into the "leftovers," including an acoustic rendering of "Name" that rivals the opening studio track. It's the closest to a live performance you'll get without a visit to the Scott Street Steak & Pub in Wausau, Wis. The Euro-Dub Jungle Love re-mix of "Feel" is about as out of fashion as you can get in the folk genre, which is perfect for Carlson. This club-ready offering is perfectly suited for any of the European cities he globe trotted through while recording "Out of Fashion."

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