It’s hard to believe that Richard Limbert is now 27. I still have this picture in my minds-eye of a lively but slightly shy teenager wielding a twelve-string guitar at Bonn Folk Club. Then one day he left the ‘stage’ and went for an audience walk-about with guitar in hand – almost certainly singing a Dylan song as he went. Things were never the same again with Richard – thankfully.
Richard Limbert seems to have been a free spirit since that day. His walking has sadly taken him to Leipzig (to study Musicology – what else?!) and his music has matured along with his age as a new CD, titled simply ‘Richard Limbert’ proves. The CD came out last week and a release party at Tonelli’s in Leipzig was by all accounts a great success. Time then to take a close look at where Bonn Folk Club’s ‘wandering son’ is now musically…
If you’ve kept in touch with Richard Limbert musically or otherwise then you’ll know that home isn’t really Bonn, or even Leipzig, it’s Lower Manhatten, Greenwich Village, preferably in the late 60’s, to be precise. There are no Dave van Ronk covers on here, but he’s Richard’s spiritual travelling companion for a wandering minstrel musical style until now. Notable is that the latest release goes simply under Richard’s name. It’s not his first release discography wise but such a quantum leap in quality and maturity from the previous ‘Hang me Higher’ disc that was chock-full of ideas that Richard didn’t quite have the maturity (or musical colleagues) to fully realise. This time around though the music and production catch up to the lyrics and it’s an enjoyable ride from start to finish, particularly since there are some talented and imaginative musicians on hand to give Richard’s lively lyrical breadth melodic cohesion.
The ‘Route 66’ Chuck Berry style swagger of ‘Paranoia’ is a good example of where Richard has made these tremendous in-roads musically since ‘Hang Me Higher’ and why this CD is more accessible than his last. The lyrics are top-notch as before but wrapped in an enjoyable melody, even if Chuck’s tune isn’t exactly new the lyrics are fresh: “Just cos you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not trying to get you?”. As on so many tracks here, Richard’s diamond-cutting lyrical sense mined from his often cultural/ intellectual observations is far more listenable, far more accessible this time around. The foksy banjo plucking behind ‘If you never fell down’ is actually a clever ‘swipe’ at those oft quoted life-style homilies like “Gotta learn to fall before you fly…” Somehow, and typically Richard Limbert, he manages to slip a mention of Ghandi in here somehow.
‘Babylonian Wars, Roosevelt’s Teddy Bear, Julius Caesar, Charles Bukowski, Behemoth and The Brothers Grimm all somehow find their ways into songs. ’Not your Charles Bukowski’ actually manages to name check (amongst others) Sinatra, Kennedy, Hendrix, Steve McQueen and… Shakespeare.
If there was a competition called ‘How many ideas can you squeeze into a four-minute song’ Richard Limbert would be in the running for top spot. You certainly don’t come to Richard with the idea of putting him on as background music for a meal or a work-out. His ragged voice is, rather like that of Tom Waits, either something you hate, or something you accept – but definitely something you cannot ignore. Waits and also Leonard Cohen discovered that they articulated better at a talking pace. There are times when I wish Richard would follow suit and not try so much to sing, but rather to talk/sing. Like both of his musical luminaries, the words are the thing. The ability to see things in a slightly ‘out of focus’ disjointed way has always been Richard Limbert’s strength. On this release though he marries those cutting observations to melodies. A shout out to the trumpet/sax/trombone section for adding extra magic and listenability to Richard’s somewhat eclectic observations. Top marks too for production from Simon Dahl. A word of warning though to first time Limbert listners – like the cover art-work, you need to ignore first opinions. Both are rather untidy and sketchy looking affairs on first sight – but the devil, as they say, is in the detail – and rather like the survivors in Richard’s epic Ernest Shackleton song ‘Decisive Moments in History’ You will feel a sense that, come the last notes of the disc, your journey has been worthwhile in the end.
‘Richard Limbert’ on Timezone Records is available HERE
Here a demo of Richard’s ‘If You Never Fell Down’