There’s not much remaining of the rather shy and clean shaven Richard Limbert who first played at Bonn Folk Club in Grauerheindorf not so long ago with a Guild Parlour guitar and pile of song lyrics at his feet. The metamorphosis was rapid even then – by years end Richard was walking round the audience with a twelve string and the confident manner of someone who knew he had something to say even if he hadn’t got round to saying it yet. Well now, with the four track EP ‘New York’ he has got round to saying it and it’s well worth hearing.
Catalyst for the quantum spring forward from his first venture onto disc ‘Hang Me Higher’ is Richard’s love for the music of Dylan and Dave Van Ronk that put him on a plane to New York for a Bachelor thesis. He came back with a solid A, some new friends, a much more mature sound and a clutch of songs.
Wikipedia describes it thus: “A neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan, New York City. Greenwich Village has been known as an artists’ haven, the Bohemian capital, the cradle of the modern LGBT Movement and the East Coast birthplace of both the Beat and ‘60’s Counterculture movements”.
Snowfall in Brooklyn – Is a melancholic and mellow melody for watching snow fall as the title suggests or rain dripping down a window pain – and even if it’s not raining outside it makes you want to either go back to bed or turn up the heating.
The village – Ah, I can hear the Dylan influence here for sure. Rolls along like the Greenwich Village train itself. “It’s not about the people, it’s about the village” is the refrain but actually it was the people that MADE Greenwich Village in the 60’s. Hendrix smoking his first pot, Dylan with his first gig and a “voice like a saw”. Randy Newman, Springsteen and Tom Waits. I remember enjoying this one the most when Richard made an appearance at Bonn Folk Club a while back. Loved that big Gibson acoustics sound. “It’s not about the people – it’s about the image” my favourite track here.
Downtown – No, not the old Petula Clark mega hit, but a raw and bluesy number written by Chris Lowe, a very good friend of Dave Van Ronk whom Richard met in NYC. the music takes a lot from ‘Brother Can You Spare Me a Dime’. This would work well on a piano – preferably an out of tune one. It would suit an older voice better and even better a whiskey stained one, but in the absence of Frankie Miller , Rod Stewart or the late Joe Cocker Richard takes it on. A nice song but I can’t see Richard as that old and grizzled bar bum – he sounds too young and too sober. Come down to Bonn for a few pints and we’ll have another go at it after closing time – the drinks are on me!
I am a sucker for some melancholic Harmonica though (courtesy of Richard’s room-mate Kurt) and coupled with the deep throb of the guitar it does rumble on very pleasantly like the last train home from a deserted tube station long after midnight. “Downtown is history. I wonder, was it ever what it used to be”. The same can be said of course for the legend of Greenwich Village itself and I do like Richard’s sadness that he can’t go back and find out – “I wish it was the 60’s… I wish I could talk to someone who doesn’t know what Starbucks means…”
Rollin’ all my Dice – This has very definitely been inspired from early Lou Reed. “Weather man is making his report, should look happy but he’s looking bored…” The tempo is slow and the mood ponderous and sad which is a feeling that pervades the disc as a whole. A feeling of loss, not of people but of a lifestyle, a time when everything was new and exciting, when Leonard Cohen could make a ‘dive’ like the Chelsea Hotel sound like a place to be rather than a place where people were sick in the hallway.
But back to New York, and that all pervading question of Greenwich Village “Was it ever what it used to be?” The power of this brief but enjoyable disc is that we, like the singer, will never ever know, but Limbert makes us care about not knowing.
RICHARD LIMBERT – NEW YORK IS AVAILABLE HERE FOR 5 EUROS VIA SOUNDCAMP