Tim Gartland

Tim Gartland
Looking Into The Sun

By Karen Nugent
September 2011

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As with a lot of good lyrics, those on one of the best tracks on this record were born out of a true story. In this case, it was a snippet of conversation overheard in an Austin, Texas restaurant involving a group of young women drinking cosmos. That’s a dangerous combination. “My Phone Said We Talked” is a cleverly-penned twangy song about a humorous situation also known as “drunk calling.” Apparently, one of those girls didn’t remember talking to some guy. But there it was – his number on her phone log. Gartland, a veteran harp player and singer, took it from there, making a wise choice to include it on his debut solo CD.

All 10 tracks on the disc are originals by Gartland, a tremendous songwriter, and founder of Boston’s popular Porch Rockers. Ok, he had an assist by bassist Paul Justice on “Staxed,” a soulful instrumental reminiscent of the famous Memphis record label; and from Porch Rocker bassist Dirk van Gulden on “Blues for Mr. Bryant,” also an instrumental and one of the best tunes on the disc. Kevin Barry’s smooth jazzy guitar, sort of B.B. King-esque, lends a mellow feel to the song, while keeping it danceable. The guitar melds perfectly with Gartland’s harp licks. Barry also plays lap steel guitar on some tracks.

Gartland’s forte is definitely songwriting, and the stories are contemporary blues rather than the classic drinking, sex, and sharecropper themes. Every single one of them tells an interesting sorry, from the opening “615 West Park Drive,” about some low rent digs (“Just $6600 hundred bucks for this heaven on earth/at $46 bucks a month we got our money’s worth/Built in one day/you know, the pre-fab way”) to “Mr. Wade’s Plus one,” the last track. (“The King James book has run out of words to teach/When Mr. Wade took his talents to South Beach.”) Gartland’s harp playing is nothing to sneer at either. Influenced by Little Walter, with some schoolin’ by Jerry Portnoy, he blows it with taste, but has the sense to showcase his talent on songs such as “Staxed.” You can definitely hear Portnoy’s influence there.

The title track comes about half-way through the disk, and the second half is the best. The second- to- last song is a haunting, drum-heavy swampy slow song called “When I was Alive.” (“I wish I met you when I was alive.”) Again, fantastic lyrics.

The record is a gem worth checking out.

A CD release party is planned for 8 p.m. Sept. 14 at Johnny D’s in Somerville. Don’t miss a chance to see this tremendous performer live. And he’s one heck of a nice guy, too.


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