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Forbert shows himself to be more than "Romeo's Tune"

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., September 21, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Steve Forbert may forever be known as the singer behind "Romeo's Tune," but that would be cutting him short as an artist. Forbert showed on Saturday that he has more than one worthy song from his four-decade career, even if none rose to the prominence of "Romeo's Tune."

Forbert mixed it up between folk (of course, he has the Dylan influence there), blues and songs that fall into the Americana realm.

Dylan was not the only reference point for the Mississippi native as he gave a slew of stage time to late bluesman Jimmie Rodgers. In fact, half of the first six songs - "My Blue-Eyed Jane," "Way Out on the Mountain" and "Any Old Time" - were cut by Rodgers, who could split the difference between country and blues. Forbert cut a Rodgers tribute disc in 2002. "Way Out on the Mountain" was a particular standout.

Forbert never had a particularly pretty voice, and the aging process has not reversed that course. His voice is on the thin side, never particularly robust, a bit grainy these days.

Playing solo acoustic, Forbert, a good guitar player in his own right, was helped here and there by opener Jesse Bardwell. His mandolin colorings were particularly welcome. The audience did its part in helping out on a number of songs.

Forbert's comments were not always entirely decipherable as he often launched into stream of consciousness type of segments and for some reason, clearly directed the conversation squarely at Bardwell. Then, all of a sudden, he seemed to pull a song out of nowhere, just plugging into a fast-paced version of The Beatles' "When I'm 64" and later "Get Back," doing a nice job on both covers.

Forbert closed the regular set with "Romeo's Tune" from his 1979 disc "Jackrabbit Slim," set to be released in November in a deluxe version.

Forbert ended the night with his own "Good Planets Are Hard to Find," prescient 23 years after it was release. The song includes the lines "Good Planets are hard to find / Good Planets are in demand." Sometimes Forbert may have been operating on his own planet, but there was certainly enough there to show that there has always been a lot more to Forbert than one hit.

Bardwell, a New Jersey native, turned in a worthy opening set with some good singing, musicianship, humor and songs, including a turn on Dave Van Ronk's "One Meatball."