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Greg Trooper


There are some records that can only be made at a specific point in the artist's life and career. When I first encountered Greg Trooper on the streets of Bleecker in Manhattan, he struck me as the Robert Blake of the singer/songwriter scene. Mind you, those were the days of the compact, intense Blake of Baretta, brimming with coiled energy and ready to stick it to "the suits," not the scary David Lynch guy of Court TV.

A quarter century later, Trooper is a long-time Nashville resident and has transformed that Northern edge into a more Southern type of energy, the kind that can be powerful and laid-back at the same time. It was a place he needed to find if he was going to make the most out of teaming up with the legendary Dan Penn as producer--the Lord of Laid-back. And make the most of it he does.

Penn sets the bar high, opening the record with a Kevin McKendree organ swell that is pure "church." Bill Kirchen enters with some sweet soul guitar (yes, that Bill Kirchen--we knew he was a great country picker but damn, the man is funky as well), and Trooper launches into a tale of shaking off middle-age depression: "Turn the TV on / I'll be the breaking news / I just need some time / To shake off half a century / Back in the world I'll climb / Once I dream away these blues." His clipped lines sit beautifully in the Kenneth Blevins groove, giving a great back-up band room to breathe, and his voice is reminiscent of Penn's in its world-weary acceptance. The Penn connection extends to songs like "This I'd Do" and "Don't Let It Go To Waste," as they explore fraught love and the things a man will put up with for a woman he cares about, much like the producer's classic "I'm Your Puppet." With lines like "I think you are as lonely as a Sunday morning / That never had a Saturday night" ("Don't Let It Go To Waste"), Trooper is definitely ready for Penn's weight class. But the pugnacious Greg Trooper of the Bleecker Street days is not the Greg Trooper of "Make It Through This World." In the title song, this year's model is ready to offer encouragement to the one leaving him.

And there are some records that can only be truly heard at certain times of the listener's life. During my happily married years I couldn't have fathomed a tune like "I Love It When She Lies." Now, after some post-divorce dating, I wonder if Greg and I knew the same woman.
• Michael Ross

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gregtrooper.com      sugarhillrecords.com

photo by michael wilson

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