Longtime regulars at Bonn Folk Club will remember Richard Limbert from his days with a twelve string acoustic – always playing confidently, and often as not, taking a walk around the beer tables as he did so. A veritable Folkmusic troubador. No longer a Bonn resident, it had been a while since we last met when he joined in the 50 Clubnight Anniversary celebrations last month, and to make up for lost appearances he proudly handed me a copy of his very first CD to review.
Proud he should be too, because it’s a cracking mix of self-penned compositions that, even if they don’t come with state of the art production do come straight from the heart.
Never a shrinking violet at the Folkclub meetings, Richard surprisingly gets things off with a song all about self confidence. ‘Faith in Myself’. Maybe all that confidence was just a cover for his lack thereof? It certainly isn’t the case now. Track two, ‘1492’, is quite an ambitious project for one man with limited overdubs as it takes on the complex history of Christopher Columbus and his ‘conquest’ of paradise’.
Track three is a welcome light instrumental ‘El Dorado’ to follow the heavy text of it’s predecessor. Then comes ‘On My Mind’ which is heavy in subject, tone and minor chords. We never quite find out what is on Richard’s mind, but it clearly hangs heavy and the track is jam full of discontent and foreboding. ‘The Spark is Setting Fire’ seems more optimistic but still has a heavy bass rumbling in the background to add gravitas to it’s content. Maybe it would help to know exactly what spark is setting fire to what? Maybe it’s better to apply it as you think fit? I remember Don Mclean once answering requests for explanations of his songs answering by saying that such questions over content are what make the songs magical in the first place.
Richard is certainly someone who, despite his tender years, is very much influenced by and understands the old school of rock-folk writing. I remember seeing him at Bob Dylan’s concert in Bonn a few years ago and Mr Zimmerman is certainly one of his heroes and inspirations, it’s written all over much of the composition and structure of his material. In the case of ‘The Spark is setting fire’ there’s even a Dylanesque harmonica wailing in the background.
There is light amongst the dark chording though, and even if ‘Hang Me High’ is about death it does at least have a tongue very much placed high in the Grim Reapers cheek: “Hang me, hang me higher. Hang me ’til my eyes run drier” as the song goes. Dying is no problem – “It get’s me anyway” as the lyric reveals. Can’t help thinking of Monty Python and ‘Always look on the Bright Side of Life’ when I hear this, which is no bad thing.
It’s back to a traditional folk-ballad style next with a new take on a much told story:‘The Murder Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’. It starts quite Paul Simon-like and sounds like something that Richard is covering from some obscure Folk poet of days gone by. “All my own compositions” says Richard when I ask him. In which case, well done, and further proof that Mr Limbert knows his Folk traditions and styles very well indeed.
I like the lyrics of ‘A Beautiful Sin’ , especially the refrain “Easy days are easily rotten”. There’s a nice contemporary style about this one that takes us into the next offering which is back in the deep and rumbling territory that dominated much of the earlier disc – ‘My Machine Heart’. In turn I like the twisty turn of the chorus but particularly dislike Richard’s phrasing of the word ‘Machine’ which comes out as ‘Mashing’ to my ears.
I don’t think that will trouble Richard too much though as he has much weightier things on his mind on the last track: ‘Dr Watson’. This number has been around in Richard’s repertoire for quite a while if I remember my Folk Clubs correctly and always had an uneasyness about it, as if the listener is listening to someone grappling with some deep and private problem in their life in public. But what is it? Typically we don’t quite get to find out “Can it be I wasn’t planned, to enter the promised land?” he sings. Self doubt creeping in again? “Look into my eyes,cos I want more!” he rejoices though – I think Richard’s regained faith in himself…!
He has every right to be confident too. No, this isn’t a high quality recording with top-flight musicians in abundance and a giddy budget of zillions. It’s just Richard Limbert and his take on life – or how he takes on life? Listen to it for what it is rather than what it isn’t and you will enjoy ‘Hang Me Higher’ as much as I did.
Anyone interested in getting hold of a copy of ‘Hang Me Higher’ can contact Richard via 3songsbonn(AT)gmx.de