"Moving Through America" is Steve Forbert's 17th album of original material, not counting numerous outtake, covers, and live collections. Establishing himself as a folk-rock troubadour in the waning days of punk while new wave was still sorting itself out, Forbert briefly flirted with the top 10 ("Romeo's Tune" remains his signature song) and major label adventures before establishing an independent career of recording and touring.
The once the fresh-faced next 'next Dylan,' whether by design or the unintentional impact of self-sabotage, Forbert at 67 is an elder-statesman on the Americana circuit, continuing to play clubs, halls and festivals to a devoted base: one is reminded of a David Olney quip captured in Peter Cooper's book "Johnny's Cash & Charley's Pride."
"And here's the other thing," David said. "Not a lot of people like my shit. But the people that do... I'm the only place they can get it. If they don't come hear me, they're not going to get the shit they like. I've got a monopoly on my shit."
For more than 40 years, we've been glad to encounter Steve Forbert's shit, not that that word would ever use that word to describe the insights and narratives the Meridian, Miss. native has delivered in his distinctive manner.
While not every album has reached the artistic heights of his debut ("Alive on Arrival") and its gold-selling follow-up ("Jackrabbit Slim"), several have including mid-career highlights "The American In Me" and "Strange Names & New Sensations." "Moving Across America" fits comfortably beside recent satisfying offerings "Compromised" and "The Magic Tree."
Like those albums, "Moving Through America" provides observational insights of modern circumstances within a band setting. The passing and legacy of Tom Petty (the perceptive "Welcome to Gainesville") and the experiences of an aging ne'er do well ("Living the Dream") are given equal prominence, their disparate stories worthy of consideration and reflection.
Mid-set, the radio-friendly "Times Like These" ("I could write some words down were I so inspired, it's hard to even rhyme in times like these") and the peppy "I Can't Get Back" ("I've gone astray, I'm way off track") reveal the inner workings of a creative mind witnessing a world that is increasingly fractured and confounding. "What's A Dog Think?" provides perspective, with "Buffalo Nickel" identifying the irony of North American culture.
Forbert inhabits these songs, and it is — as always — impossible to determine where his narrators begin and their creator ends. And that is the mark of the songwriting master: each lyrical note rings true if uncomfortably so as in "It's Too Bad (You Super Freak)."