Thursday, January 13, 2011

Steve Forbert returns to the Iron Horse next Friday, January 21st . Rebecca Pronsky opens.

 Growing up in Meridian, Steve Forbert first picked up the guitar at age 10 and spent his high school years playing in a variety of local bands. Frustrated with his job as a truck driver, the restless singer/songwriter moved to New York City at 21, where he performed for spare change in Grand Central Station before working his way up through the Manhattan club circuit. Performing at Folk City and eventually opening for artists like Talking Heads and John Cale at CBGB, Forbert became something of a local sensation and signed his first record deal with the CBS-distributed label Nemperor.

Released at the height of the new wave explosion, his 1978 debut Alive On Arrival offered a first look at his colorful mix of spare acoustic introspection and scrappy rock ‘n’ roll and became one of the year's most acclaimed albums. While critics tagged him—like Bruce Springsteen and John Prine before him—“the next Dylan,” Forbert never put too much stock in the comparison and forged his own path, expanding his audience substantially with 1979’s commercial breakthrough Jackrabbit Slim and his era defining hit single, “Romeo's Tune.”

By this time, the heyday of the classic 70s singer- songwriters was quickly fading. Songs by America, Carole King, James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot were quickly giving way on the pop charts to Van Halen, Foreigner and Pat Benatar. As the seventies gave way to the eighties, Forbert’s plainspoken, heartfelt early recordings were among the few keeping the joyful and innocent spirit of the genre alive.

Given the mythic nature of Forbert’s early career, one can be forgiven for wondering what he’s done since parting company with Geffen Records after they released The American in Me in 1992. The fact is that Steve Forbert has never stopped writing, singing and performing and has released twelve studio albums, three live sets and four DVDs since 1978 - to say nothing of the several compilations and archival releases that are available through his website ( The freedom to release music when he chooses to and follow his own muse without having to cowtow to the fickle whims of musical fashion has ironically resulted in his creating albums like Evergreen Boy, Mission of The Crossroad Palms and Strange Names and New Sensations that must surely be considered amongst the best releases of his career.

As the years pass, the indefinable honesty and dignity of Forbert’s approach to music continues to have an almost magical spell on his small but loyal coterie of fans. Undeniably, there is something immensely appealing in his laconic delivery and hesitant assertions which still draw listeners into a universe where common people make difficult choices and occasionally win. (as was proven when Forbert was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2006.)

Finally, Steve Forbert in 2011 is a songwriter who not only appears comfortable with his place in life but who also — like the narrator of his early tune Steve Forbert’s Midsummer Night’s Toast — still rejects a nine-to-five existence in favor of hewing to his own road-less-traveled. Most recently, Forbert added verses and re-recorded “The Oil Song” after the BP oil spill disaster in April. “The Oil Song 2010” clocks in at 13 minutes, and Forbert updated the lyrics again in June.

“Music should be truthful and real,” Forbert once said, “but it should also be uplifting and healing.” That’s a philosophy he’ll be honoring throughout 2011 as he continues his very personal and spirited relationship with a loyal fan base that is growing old gracefully along with its favorite troubadour.

Steve Forbert with opener Rebecca Pronsky play the Iron Horse on Friday, January 21st at 7PM. Tickets at Northampton Box Office, 413-586-8686 and online at

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