Robert Burke Warren wants to believe in
a better place. He also wants to be a better man. Now I don’t
have a clue as to the status of Warren’s manhood, but I’m certain
he will be in a better place when he takes the Two Boots stage
with his band Turpentine on Saturday night.
Warren and his band will no doubt entertain
the crowd with a variety of his original songs, many of which
will be culled from his debut CD, "to this day," originally
released in early 2000 on Jackpot Records, and now being distributed
nationally on Redeye. Warren will perform two sets beginning
at 10 pm.
The CD is indicative of Warren’s eclectic
flavor, alternating from traditional country sounds to modern
industrial. It is an accomplished piece of work from an artist
who infuses his Georgia roots with the sounds of his adopted
home of New York City.
Several themes emerge from "to this
day" that provide the listener with a glimpse into the psyche
of the artist. A theme emerges early in the album where Warren
reveals inner tension over his decision to leave Georgia (and
the South) and move north of the Mason-Dixon line and into the
heart of enemy territory.
The voices of his family and friends resonate
with bitterness over a war that’s still being fought in the minds
of these southerners. When Warren sings "Daddy died in the
War of Northern Aggression/His spirit rose while Dixie played,"
in the song "Josephus Cries" (an ode to his great-grandfather
Josephus), you can still hear the pain and terror caused by Sherman’s
march across the land of both Warren’s and great-grandpa Josephus’
Later, in the song "Milledgeville,"
Warren tells his family and friends that they won’t have to be
ashamed of him. (In fact, he’s probably still trying to convince
The stories in "to this day"
illuminate the people and places of Warren’s hometown while he
wrestles with his conscience. In "Milledgeville," the
artist reminisces about playing hide and seek with the neighborhood
kids and hiding in the Magnolia trees while clinging to his new
urban home: "Let me stay here with my devils – fallen saints
and rebel angels," and then pleads, "Please don’t send
me back to Milledgeville."
And in the CD’s opening track, "Dark
Angel Eyes," a song that can be described as industrial
country, Warren expertly transforms his relationship with a difficult
and destructive lover into his relationship with New York City
when the song crashes into its chorus, "You got everything
I want/You’re leading me astray/You got everything I need/To
help me lose my way."
Later in the CD, Warren seems to reconcile
his guilt in "Falling into Grace," an up-tempo rocker
in which the artist realizes that despite the fact that he’s
fallen from grace in the eyes of his friends and family, and
despite the feeling that he’s a "stranger to my new strange
ways," the move to New York has him "slowly sinking
to a better place" and he knows that its going to make him
a "better man."
Another theme that emerges is Warren’s
search for faith. By coming to New York, Warren seems to have
lost the spirituality that pervades southern culture. He uses
the second half of the CD to chronicle a search for that faith
in songs like "Radio Church," referring to the radio
preachers of his lost southern youth and "Jacksong,"
where he asks his young son to "teach him belief."
The album’s finest moment comes in the
song, "I Want Her Faith," a plaintive tribute to Warren’s
grandmother, who sits in front of her window quietly watching
the devil’s work get done.
This is a simple song with a traditional
melody and poetic lyrics. He weaves his grandmother’s story into
his own search for faith and marvels at her ability to remain
steadfast: "She says it’s not at all like you think it is/Just
broaden your mind and see/A miracle in an act of kindness/The
hidden heart of your enemy." The music rises in its simplicity
until Warren breaks down and explicitly covets his grandmother’s
resolve, "I want her faith/I want her strength/I want to
believe in a better place."
He’s not alone. We all want to believe
in a better place and what’s better than Park Slope’s Two Boots
on a Saturday night? So pick up a copy of the CD from a store
near you, or log onto www.robertwarren.com and then ya’ll come
on down to hear two sets starting at 10 pm.
Adam Stengel is a singer-songwriter
who has produced the album "Train of Thought" and is
a Manhattan-based music attorney.
Robert Burke Warren and Turpentine will
perform March 31 at 10 pm at Two Boots [514 Second St. at Seventh
Avenue, (718) 499-3253].