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  • Jonathan Widran

JEFF FOWLER, Live at The Mint

When indie singer-songwriter recorded his show at The Mint in L.A. in November 2011 in celebration of the release of his second album Blood from Turnips, there’s no way he could have known that some eight and nine years hence, there would be a pandemic that would make sensitive folks around the world stop and realize how precious time – and such moments – are.

He thought back to that magical night. All release parties are special for artists, because it’s their chance to showcase their new material. Yet there was something more transcendent about that gig, its audience full of so many family members (many who flew into Los Angeles) and friends reconnecting unexpectedly. It’s as if Fowler knew that someday, after his father (who was there that night) passed and the pandemic shifted our thinking, he would need to revisit it and blissfully share the magic with everyone.

If Fowler is a new artist on your radar (despite releasing his first album Side Hey! in 2008), it’s understandable. The Oakland native, an aspiring actor turned successful lawyer whose greatest gifts turned out to be in music, has unfortunately only put out a brilliant album of hipster 80s’ covers (The Air Nostalgic, 2018) and a Christmas LP since.

As you listen to Live at the Mint, from his alternately smooth and soulful, then rocking voice and originals full of quirky insightful lyrics to his mostly faithful to the originals but still killer jams on Spandau Ballet’s “True” (where he mentions he was going to do a kazoo solo but talks playfully instead through the original’s sax solo) and an extended swirl through Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” you’ll hope that this album generates enough love and passion from longtime and new fans to inspire Fowler (also a solid keyboardist) to get back in the studio and grace us with more originals – yet keep his impossibly infectious way with the classics coming.

After a funky, jangling intro piece titled The “Fowler Vibrations” sung by one of his female backup singers, the bulk of the originals (five songs) are from Blood From Turnips, truly showcasing Fowler’s brilliance as a soft rocker with an edge, most notably on the hypnotic, mesmerizing and longing pop/soul gem “I’ll Try “ (featuring the dense, driving drums of Eli Hludzik, Wes Style’s fiery guitar solo and trippy synth effects) to the lilting offbeat poetry filled ode to his pals “Here’s To You” and a playful metaphorical blues-tinged swim with an elusive “Goldfish Girl.” He also includes two excellent selections from the first album, the passionate ballad “Mr. Mason Man” (using builders and drivers as a metaphor for romantic endeavors – I think!) and the supreme fuzzy rocker with different tempos “So Far."

As grand as the action is on those originals are, and as much fun as he has with his powerhouse ensemble, he truly saves the best for last, regaling the audience with snazzy fun pieces and parts of cherished songs from his formative years – Genesis’ “Turn It On Again,” Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” and Rick Springfield’s “I’ve Done Everything For You.” Along the way, his intro anecdotes are fun as well, particularly when he mentions the Yogi’s and takes off his jacket like he heard Engelbert Humperdinck does.

Now that you’ve taken us back in time to this incredible night, don’t leave us hanging, Jeff – you’ve got a lot more to give and as you hint in your liner notes, it’s high time you delivered some exciting new goodies!


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