Sunday, April 29, 2007

Review of "Sky Is" by George Wallace

George Wallace, lyrics and vocals
The Moontones, music
October, 2006

SKY IS is a self-produced CD of poetry and music from Long Island-based George Wallace, backed by a group called the Moontones. There is no mention of personnel so, whoever the Moontones are, they need to start advocating for themselves more and get credit for their work. The music contributes effectively to the dynamics of the CD. Now a note of disclosure: I have at least a cursory knowledge of George Wallace’s poetry and admire his work. I met him on several occasions including one evening when he came to my house in the company of Marc Widershien to help Doug Holder, John Wunjo and myself with some proof-reading back in paleolithic times before Robert K. Johnson and Dorian Brooks took over the editorial helm of Ibbetson Street. So I expected the CD to be good. I was not disappointed.

The first piece on the CD is "When I Go Away," a lilting, upbeat poem which is enhanced by melodies derived from a major scale. The piece that follows, "The 12th Street Shuffle," is bluesy, kind of film noir-ish. Wallace intones:

it was the east river
it was not the east river
it was the black keys
it was not the black keys
it was the 12th street shuffle
captured for eternity
in a convex spoon

(Apologies to Wallace. I didn’t see the lyrics in print so in this review I’m creating line breaks as I hear them, rather than how Wallace may have conceived them.)
"This Does Not Stop Me," the fourth number, saunters along on a funky groove. Wallace lays out his lover’s habits and foibles but says in the refrain "this does not stop me." Wallace’s voice is responded to by lovely minor key licks.

The beautiful "Heaven Soars East" conveys a longing for peace with lyrics like:

the land we know is no longer
the land we have known
a drop of rain turns
yellow in a blackbird’s eye

And further on:

some things that should have changed
remain the same a man who
would otherwise be occupied
making baskets from wisteria vines
is busy making preparations for war

In "Growing," set to some mournful Appalachian fiddle, the speaker observes all the things that are commanding his attention. He struggles with lists of things he should be doing, but decides against making a list, preferring to just "be alive and remember things."
In "Sky Is," fractured gypsy violin runs heighten the enigmatic beauty.

sky is a woman in white stockings,
baghdad in coral rain

The eighth and last and longest piece (at 4:06) is "I Have Discovered A Country." It begins with:
I have discovered a country
of modest people that live
without great obsessions
that live without great anxiety
that live in the silence
of forgotten places, in the alleyways
of their imagination

He describes this country as one:

where schemes are impossible
where a handshake is unnecessary
where doctors are poets
and horoscopes are optional
there are many colors on its flag
the politicians close their mouths while chewing
what a great country I have discovered

And what a great poetry-music album I have discovered.

--Richard Wilhelm

Ibbetson Update
*Richard Wilhelm is the arts/editor for the Ibbetson Street Press. He is working on a collection of his poetry to be edited by Cambridge, Mass. poet Doug Worth that is slated to be out early next year. Check out Wilhelm's blog at

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