Last year when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature there was a lot of people who were crying foul because Dylan is a musician and not, despite the fact he has published poetry, a writer in the sense of a full time novelist or short story writer or poet. As an avid reader of literature and a huge fan of Dylan I thought the prize was rightly deserved because to me and countless others Dylan is a poet who sets his words to music and whose songs contain more influence and wordy breadth than many novels which have come before and after his best works. Two other musicians who would also have been deserving of that prize are the late Leonard Cohen, and the raspy raconteur Tom Waits. These three artists are all influences which the New Zealand by way of England singer/songwriter Roger Marshall imbues on his record Situation Normal.
Marshall is the kind of man I can relate to as I hover on the cusp of entering my forties. He seems a bit older, not looking so much, he is lean and mean in his photo, but one can tell from the slight rasp in his voice that he has been around for a time. Though one can also tell from his lyrical perspective, something that I enjoyed as I listened to the contemplative and bluesy Situation Normal. It is a record written by someone who has been around, and has observed and has something to say. In a time when the world seems so focused, for some unknown reason, on the younger generation, this record seems to have emerged to say otherwise. Anyway youth is wasted on the young.
Situation Normal wastes no time in getting down to business on the opening track “See you when I see you,” a gruff and beautiful ambling song that recalls a combo of Waits, Dylan and Cohen. The beauty here is simple and pure. There are strings and slow ambling guitar, but it is also Marshall’s pin pointed and plain spoken lyrics which add so much to his music. Next he changes gears without a slip into the beautiful droll on “Longest Night” which sounds like something out of Randy Newman’s songbook.
Marshall takes his tone to down and dirty blues on “Doing life” a song as eye opening as it is depressing. The honesty overrules everything. “My state of being is being alone” he half-sadly croons and one feels both touched and sad by this lyricism. On the alt-country title track “Situation Normal” Marshall seems at the height of his soapbox and well so, as he solemnly makes his points.
Situation Normal is a beautiful rant and finger pointing record. It is pointing at all of us, as no one can really escape the largess of Marshall’s scope. And rightly so do none of us deserve to escape this. This is an album of atonement, not just for its maker, but for us all.
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