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Music Review: Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra – Honker

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What do you get when you take a bit of Randy Newman, combine with a dash of Tom Waits, throw in a pinch of Harry Nilsson, and a trace of Loudon Wainwright III? Something that FCEtier finds indigestible (“Count me in with those who ‘don’t really get cha’”). Sure, he’s been converted (by force) to some of the quirkier musical geniuses, but his tastes are a bit, shall we say, refined. He likes jazz (no comment) and he likes professional, smooth, mature voices (which may explain why we didn’t see Randy Newman a long while back when he played Baton Rouge).

Jazz is not my thing. Oh, sure, I love gypsy jazz and there are a few jazz artists and compositions that I enjoy, but—on the whole—jazz is not my thing. Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra perform a type of jazz that might be called "Peter Gunn jazz." It’s not jazz-lite, it’s jazz for the unjazzable. On Honker Lipton delivers ironic lyrics, and it's that irony that made me a fan.

Songs like “You Were Right and It’s Okay” assure those of us who are more than a little convinced of our own imperfections that when people don’t get us, it’s their problem not ours, “so f*** ‘em.” “Poor Old Whitey” sounds like it could have been pulled from the Randy Newman songbook, reminiscent of several Newman pieces.

The waltz-like “We Would Have Never Met (If Not for the Internet)” — c’mon FCE how could you NOT love this song? Here’s a wedding song for all the geeks out there who connected with DSL. Can’t you relate? When Lipton croons about his pit bull, he sings “the little rascal looks just like Petey,” garnering a grin from those who do get it.

There’s an awful lot of good writing on Honker, but, admittedly, it’s not for everyone.  Cynical lyrics with understated orchestration will always have a home on my CD player (FCE, you might want to take your own car from now on), and I look forward to hearing more from Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra.

What HE said…

I did agree with Ethan Lipton on… his quotes from the press release. "It started with me just singing, which was a bad idea by anyone’s estimation, especially my own." Lipton’s voice is not a velvet smooth Mel Torme or Steve Lawrence and it isn’t billed as such.  Even though I enjoy the sounds of such artists as Bob Dylan, Leon Redbone, and Randy Newman, for some reason Ethan Lipton’s voice didn’t appeal to me.

The seeds of greatness are here and need to be cultivated with more music and less vocals.  Lipton’s work may be like scotch; you have to acquire a taste for it.

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