(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Is there anything more boring than someone telling you about their weird dreams? We all do it. But we all also know, deep down, that no one else really cares that you dreamt about battling giant lake monsters attacking Battery Park with Louis CK last night. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, so it is that we approach Child Inside Be Heard, the new double album from Vermont's Bob and the Trubadors with some healthy skepticism. (And no, I don't know why they spell it that way.) The entire record, all 23 songs of it, was written based on dreams that band members had. But rather than a trite exercise in psychological and spiritual navel-gazing, the album is a surprisingly engaging listen in which the band ably distills their nocturnal admissions through a filter of theatrically tinged rock, jazz and zydeco.
Interestingly, given the mystical origins of the material, the majority of the songs on Child Inside are fairly straightforward, lyrically speaking. Rather than indulge in heady spiritual metaphors, bandleader Bob Murray and company favor a more direct, literal tack, fleshing out their musings with breezy arrangements that fans of, say, Steely Dan should find quite agreeable.
On the opening title track, Murphy wonders aloud, "What if everything I thought was gospel / Proved a mere concoction of absurd? / Would I kick my heels up? / Would I drink from his cup? / Would I let my child inside be heard?" The spiritual awakening that results from questioning what you think you know to be true proves a central theme to the record. Here, that theme is laid over a woozy jumble of accordion and piano that evokes Parisian street music. The following cut, "Mr. Dream Dude," also bears a certain hot-house flair, as do many of the album's best tunes.
Later, on "From Within Me," Bob and the Trubadors indulge a more soft-rock vibe, showcasing their stylistic versatility. On the ballad "Smiling Boy," guitarist Getty Payson gets her Stevie Nicks on. "One Million Things" is a jaunty little acoustic number with an early rock-and-roll feel. And "Charlize Theron, Be My Girl" is a lively come-on to the bombshell actress. Thankfully, Murphy doesn't indulge the details of the particular dream that inspired that song. Ahem.
The double album's only real flaw, if it can be called that, is its length. At more than 100 minutes, it's almost too much to consume at once. But it's hard to complain about too much of a good thing. And most of Child Inside Be Heard is very good indeed. Sweet dreams.
Child Inside Be Heard by Bob and the Trubadors is available at bobandthetrubadors.bandcamp.com. The band plays Sweet Melissa's in Montpelier this Saturday, June 21.