A friend of mine says he’s finally decided who Steve Forbert sounds like. It’s Winnie the Pooh. Indeed Forbert’s voice — in recent years, especially — has become more of a raspy whisper and taken on Pooh-like qualities. Forbert is an understated folk-rock songwriter who has been around for more than twenty years and who is at his best evoking a time and place in a clever turn of phrase. “Carolina looks real good if I’m in East St. Paul. Oklahoma looks all right if I’m in Montreal,” he sings on the opening “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” Later, on the organ-tinted “Rose Marie,” he sings about other familiar places. “Could we meet in that joint on the point and look out for the moon.”
Forbert enlisted legendary producer Jim Dickinson to man the board on Evergreen Boy . He’s the man who produced some of Big Star’s classic tracks in the ’70s and later produced the Replacements when they immortalized Big Star leader Alex Chilton in song. Here he brings an organic, acoustic sound to the proceedings. It’s certainly not Big Star or the Replacements, and there aren’t many ultra-hip, modern production gimmicks in the mix, but the modesty seems to suit Forbert’s songs.
The problem here is a few too many tracks that are pleasant enough but that don’t make much of an impression musically or lyrically. The title track and “Now You Come Back” are two of the only songs that rev up much beyond mid-tempo. And several of the songs have very similar melodies. Still, Forbert’s moments of homespun inspiration are usually worth sticking around for. As he sings on “It Doesn’t Matter Much”: “But sometimes on a dark and country backwoods road, I pass a little shack that shines… It doesn’t matter much what kind of house you got, as long as it’s a happy home.” Pooh couldn’t have said it better.
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