REVIEW: Steve Goodman’s “Santa Ana Winds” Reissue Contains Jewels


August 9th — the late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman’s 2 posthumously released LPs (Santa Ana Winds & Unfinished Business) will release as expanded reissues on Omnivore Records.

The first: Santa Ana Winds was the final LP recorded prior to Steve’s passing (Sept 1984). It opens beautifully with the catchy “Face on the Cutting Room Floor,” co-written with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna & Jimmy Fadden.

For those unfamiliar with Steve, Goodman could write folk, novelty, standards, ballads & country songs. “Telephone Answering Tape” with its harmonica, pedal steel & fiddles is a toe-tapper with Goodman in fine voice. A laid back lyrically clever “The One That Got Away,” has the late Tim Hardin feel to it.

This LP has its jewels. Goodman was never guilty of being lame, mediocre or patently commercial. Like Leonard Cohen, Goodman apparently thought long & hard about what he wanted to say in his lyrics and music. The effectiveness would always be solid if not sincere.

Steve rocks out in a rare near Robert Gordon-Marshall Crenshaw-Dave Edmunds fashion with lots of potency in “Queen of the Road.” The groove is tight & Goodman’s near-gnarly vocals, steady rock beat with piano, saxophone, & revving motorcycle engine ignite with charm. Quite cool especially since Kris Kristofferson sings backup & makes comments at the end.

Just as the rock simmers Steve goes full-throttle George Jones in a blissful country tragic tale of “Fourteen Days.” An excellent tune for George had he known about it. What’s sad is that it sounded like Steve was developing even more like a lyrical storyteller. If he didn’t get attention from the folk-rock audience Goodman could’ve been country’s Tom Waits. Emmylou Harris appears on this one.

The jazzy “Hot Tub Refugee,” has humor but the slinky beat, accentuated harmonica, deep bass lines & Goodman’s dynamic vocal renders it stately. Steve’s diversification is to be admired. Brings it all down to Coolsville & then Steve goes into the melancholy world of Mickey Newbury, Bob Neuwirth, Guy Clark & Gene Watson.

His voice is richer than Neuwirth, but he maintains Bob’s fragility. “I Just Keep Falling in Love,” has a beautiful poignant sax.

The hobo song “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” starts as a hat tip to the late banjo-fiddle master John Hartford but then Steve shifts gears as he takes the tune momentarily into a jazzier realm with a chorus that is a lounge piano, jazzy cocktail sax (thanks to Jim Rothermel) territory.

I was totally taken by this inventive stretch. It worked wonderfully. Typical Steve Goodman genius. Mixing Hartford with Peter Nero. Love it & Goodman proves his mettle again as a jazz singer & writer as he continued with the jazz-inflected title tune “Santa Ana Winds.” A marvelous channeling of Lambert-Hendricks & Ross songwriting & performing technique. Intentional or not, that’s the soil Steve Goodman was planting in.

Steve plays acoustic guitar, Steve Fishell (pedal steel, dobro), Kevin Wells (drums), George Marinelli (electric guitar), Chuck Fiore (bass), Red Young (piano, DX-7), Jim Rothermel (recorders, harmonica, alto & tenor saxes), & Byron Berline (fiddle).

The 18-track just over an hour LP adds 8 bonus cuts. Not toss-offs. Just acoustic Goodman. With “Can’t Find My Heart,” “Outside of Nashville,” (Fred Neil-inspired vocal) & “Still Trying to Care,” as stand-alone pristine, well-recorded + beautiful takes. Goodman’s certainly in good company with Tim Hardin, Townes van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, & Jim Croce. A group of songwriters & performers unique in their own special way.

The original LP was produced by Steve. The reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski.

Available at Amazon, Discogs, & MusicStack.



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