Art Edelstein is known to most of my readers as the indefatigable writer and critic of Vermont’s traditional music scene. (Art has been writing for The Times Argus quite a bit longer than I have, and I’m about to begin my 34th year.) And plenty know Art as a guitar-toting folk musician.
But did anyone know that Art was a wit?
Art just produced his own CD, “News, Blues & a Dog Tale,” which is quite frankly hilarious — often political but very funny. The 10 original songs on the 44-minute album harken back to the golden folk days of the legendary Smothers Brothers. The music, though derivative, is original, attractive and delivers the material. It’s simply loads of fun.
The first song, “Everything Is Made in China,” is emblematic. According to Art, guitars, cars, iPhones, etc. are made in China, even adoptable babies.
“Everything but democracy is made in China,” Art sings.
This song, like most, is in a ballad style while Art employs his strong but not always pretty baritone lyrically and with wit. More impressive, Art plays all the instruments on the album, dubbing one over the other, and it works quite well. “China” uses ukulele, guitar and bass guitar.
Much more personal — to lots of us — is “I’m Getting Older.” “Got up this a.m., heard something crack; it wasn’t in the bed, it was in my achin’ back,” to a harmonica lament. “… my sex life is uphill. And when I finally snatch some, I’m the one who takes the pill.”
In a similar vein and no less relevantly funny, even, acerbic, is “Happy Medicare Birthday”: “That Medicare card is better than debtors’ jail … You can thank Lyndon Johnson for keeping you alive … Let’s remember Republicans …”
And then he gets more overtly political with the ballad-story “Earthquake.” Art’s world commentary on jihad, bombings and such asks: “Where is it leading? When does it end?” answering, “Brothers become enemies, enemies become friends. … Trying to hold on to our sanity as the world tumbles down.” Art even provides his own chorus.
Another political statement, this one about Derby Line, is “The False 45”: “It never really mattered before those New York buildings fell … The Feds have made life hard along the False 45.”
Some are just for fun, like “Six Strings”: “Salvation in a box of wood.”
“Hackneyed Phrases” says things like: “The toothpaste is out of the tube … Drink the Kool-Aid … with a grain of salt.” But where did “Eat the low-hanging fruit” come from? (Isn’t it “pick”?)
Of course, there a couple of oddball love songs. “I left a Rose back in the Snow” is a silly paean to Vermont, but “Just a Dog (for LP)” is pretty universal: “I’d rather have been with him than most folks I’ve known. He was just a dog and life was just a bone … He was just a dog, and I still miss him now he’s gone.”
Closing with a bit of tenderness — accentuated by the warm guitars — “Flight Out of Boston,” about a chance meeting: “It was a magic carpet flight … We left Boston as strangers on that cold Friday night; we arrived much closer, it was a magic carpet flight.”
Art’s songs are personal, well produced and fun. But mostly, they’re entertaining.