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"I Do What You Say I Can't"
The Howard Fishman Quartet

Tell me about beauty and I'll tell you about the Howard Fishman Quartet. Moody, dangerous, ancient, modern, ruthless, longing, explosive, and quiet: the band incorporates varied aspects of life in its songs. Part story-telling, part emotional playing; the songs prove infectious as you are caught up in their web. This is their third CD, and "Do What I Want" just might make you do what they want.

The CD is a break from their previous efforts; it appears the devil got his paws in on this one. The music seems moodier, edgier, and - dare I say - groovier. The band is definitely experimenting on "Do What I Want," and incorporates guest musicians playing electric guitars, electric organs, and drums. "Heresy" some of you are saying. This is the Howard Fishman Quartet: band of traditionals, Appalachian-inspired tunes, and southern old-time-feel music.

Well, this isn't Kansas anymore (or Louisiana for that matter). Though they have brought along their trademark sound, these are not the same-old songs you are expecting. While retaining elements of their past, this music is a departure from their norm. They're not leaving their sound behind, but they are flexing their muscles here, exploring new territories; so let's enjoy the ride.

Song arrangements are different; song tempos vary a lot and vary suddenly. It creates a different vibe for the band from their previous flowing-feel. They have rollicking songs ("Weary Blues"), groovy (I know, but it is groovy) songs ("Get Some Rest"), and softer ballad-types ("In Another Life" and "A New Life").

The wit and playfulness of the some of the lyrics still remains. The first song, "Good Times" starts with: "You've been in all my dreams, but they haven't been bad, I've been thinking about all about the good times, that you and I never had." Of course, the lyrics have always been important to the music, sometimes feeling like you're in the confessional with the sinner, other times hearing a story told on a rickety old front porch. Either way, Howard's voice (teasing and raw) is still the voice of a salt-of-the-earth man not understanding life - or understanding it too well.

But for this band, the music has always been the power. Russell Farhang (violin), Jonathan Flauger (double bass), and Erik Jekabson (trumpet) don't disappoint this time around either. They still jam while trying new things. The quartet is a tight band.

"Do What I Want" is a strong album, contrary to what you'd expect from such a varied make-up of songs and different styles. It will not disappoint the quartet's previous fans; but it will attract new ones.

The Howard Fishman Quartet plays free every Thursday night at Pete's Candy Store. More information can be found at

-- Grant Moser

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[email protected] | March 2002 | Issue 24
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