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Michael Reno Harrell

Closer Home – 2003 (Dancing Bear)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Michael Reno Harrell

North Carolina's Michael Reno Harrell is an easygoing, old-fashioned folk singer in the mold of a Gordon Lightfoot or John Stewart, with songs that take a worldwide view of things that could just as easily have happened closer to home.

In the liner notes, Harrell mentions that he wrote, "Let My Baby Be," mostly around the concept of a "rambler" and that theme is present throughout many of the other songs as well. "East Kentucky Dream" is a tale of a miner who builds a boat and sails out on the ocean to escape the coal dust. Harrell travels to Texas for "Molly In Killeen" and heads west for "Road In Wyoming."

Like Tom Russell, Harrell imbues his tunes with a sense of place, whether that place is actually mentioned or not. He's at his most incisive, however, in the relentlessly geographical, "Germany," where he ridicules his own hometown, Charlotte, and its attempts to become a "world class city," by comparing it with what he sees on a trip through Europe. (E-Mail: mike@michalereno.com )