‘Bushnell’s Turtle’ is the second solo release from JOE FAHEY, a Minneapolis based singer songwriter, who also runs the band Carp 18.
This CD follows on from his 2006 release ‘Tote Bag’, and is a mixture of various genres, encompassing indie rock, blues, country, folk and classic Americana. What runs throughout is a sense of humour and some clever lyric writing. There are fifteen tracks on the CD, which, rather quaintly has been split into a Side One and Side Two. Of these, I personally found that the Side One tracks were very good throughout, and although Side Two has a few tracks that are throwaway, when it does shine, it is excellent.
Side One opens with ‘Sunday Painter’s Sunday’, which is in the classic post punk/new wave style of the late 1970s. The track bounces along like a rollercoaster ride with Joe asking you to “Check out my insomniac dreams and nightmares.”
‘Resolution’, which follows, is a rocking blues style number with some excellent harmonica courtesy of Terry Walsh. After this there are a couple of tracks that really made me think that I was almost listening to a Jonathan Richman album, as the lyrics and intonation was very alike. One of these is the excellent ‘Half Full’, a story of an eternal pessimist’s reply to someone’s cheery optimism: - “I see your glass is half empty, you keep on telling me it’s half full/ You’re always tryin’ to trip me up with that optimistic bull.”
Another great track, and one that closes Side One is ‘The Art of Happiness Blues (Even The Dalai Lama Wants to Kick Your Ass), which is a fast indie rocker, with the humour upfront throughout, and some witty lyrics: - “I couldn’t even muster up a hangdog expression after I got done talkin’ to you.”
Side Two opens with ‘Anyway, Happy Wren Day’ a slower folk pop song, which is pleasant enough, but just didn’t have enough hooks for me. After that is the brilliant 'I Could Not Steal Her Heart (So I Stole Her Car)’, a bittersweet love song in a slightly country folk style, once again, the Jonathan Richman style of writing and humour is clear: - “She drove a European luxury sedan/ With heated seats and mirrors and a turbo fan,
I loved that girl so much I couldn’t see straight/ Now they took my shoelaces and here I wait.” An excellent tale of rejection and appropriation, this is one of the real high points on the entire album.
‘Delta Pine Blues’ is another great song, done in a classic blues style about an itinerant: - “I went to Mississippi, to pick that Delta pine/ It only hurt my hands and left me with a worried mind”. There is a humorous lyrical touch in the second verse, with the guy moving on due to illiteracy: - “Well, I couldn’t spell Mississippi, so I moved to Alabam.”
“There Goes Johnny Faithful’ is another of the best tracks on the album, a song that merges gothic imagery seamlessly with a country style of music, and brought to my mind some of The Gun Club’s classic work. The lyrics are spot on here and really make this track work: - “The demon called deception came to town tonight/ Lookin’ for a new connection, lookin’ for a port in a storm” and carries on about how it “Put its claws in a soul tonight. There was no fight and no rejection.”
After this, it was difficult for the album to sustain the momentum, and the last couple of tracks, ‘The Camel Watusi’ and ‘Breakfast With The Loudbeaks’ (which is just an acoustic guitar track with birdsong) are forgettable. Personally, I think that this would have worked better by cutting a couple of the tracks and rearranging the order, but all that said, when this album is good, it really shines. Certainly worth having a look at.
Joe Fahey online