Written by Craig Bowles, posted by blog admin
We should always cherish albums like this. Albums like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s Songs for Mixed Company just aren’t that common anymore. Listening to the ten songs on this release reminds anyone with ears that there are still singer/songwriters slaving away at their craft for little money and exercising great care to make sure the songs they share with the world are honed to a fine edge. The songs have an obvious origin in folk music, but Barry, Fuerst, and their collaborators have carried that a step further by incorporating a light roots rock sound as well as utilizing much more unusual instrumentation like the Mellotron in order to further color their pieces. The lyrics are, uniformly, top notch. The songs never strain for effect and retain a natural poeticism that sets them apart from contemporaries who too frequently try just as hard with obviously overworked results.
“Let’s Be Friends” begins the album on a pensive, dark note. Lurking at the back of this song throughout its entirety is the bitter reality that these two one time lovers really have very little interest in being friends, but they feel hidebound to attempt something their hearts really do not support. This emotional position is reflected in the music as well; Barry’s acoustic guitar manifests the same pensive mood with its shadowy lyricism and the duo’s vocals pay proper tribute to the seriousness of the situation while still showing artful restraint. “Miss Mie” is another instance of the duo’s restraint informing and enriching their performance. This is an exquisite nod to the duo’s love for classic country music, circa the 1950’s or Sixties, and they pull it off flawlessly. The lyrics even revisit some familiar genre tropes, like the narrator who’s crying in his beer, and the music invokes a similar mood. “Can’t Be Trusted” is another meditative piece with focused, condensed guitar playing and an appropriately intense vocal from Barry and Fuerst alike.
“Goodbye is Not the End” brings accordion into the mix and it fits in quite well with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s typical instrumental blend. It gives the song an improbably jaunty bounce, somewhat incongruous when compared to earlier and later songs, but it makes for a nice shift in atmosphere. “Year of the Monkey” is another outstanding track especially for its ability to keep relatively straight forward guitar and a basic tempo interesting and some of the best lyrical content on the release. “Sweetest Baby” is the last “key” number on the album and its good natured grace, relaxed tempo, and immensely likeable vocals from Barry and Fuerst give the piece its distinctive flavor. They cover Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” to superb effect and sans the heavy-handed theatrics of the original while the finale, “Dearly Beloved”, strikes a welcome note of humor on an otherwise serious set of songs. It’s good and wise that Thunderbolt and Lightfoot end on this note; it’s little twists like this and others mentioned before that make the duo special.