What’s instantly noticeable with Ian Fisher is how he manages to shuffle the gold pan of his natural Missouri Americana nuggets with his now expatriate Euro-pop morsels to produce a Euro-Americana hybrid showcase. If you listen to singer-songwriters of England, Germany & the Netherlands you’ll find artists like the late David McWilliams, Clifford T Ward, & Gerry Rafferty who have all passed these stretches of road before.
What Ian Fisher does on his 15-cut American Standards (Independent – drops Feb 19) is update the style to maintain the genre with touches that don’t make it retro. The path is free of weedy musical patches.
The title track is a nice buzz-saw of musical cuttings with fuzzed-out guitars & at times may remind one of the lyrical vinegar of the late John Martyn. The entire LP is a socially-conscious exercise, with loving asides toward Nashville, political & social issues, & songs that glide across past grudges.
Ian (guitar) is joined by producer Rene Muhlberger (lead guitar/bass/drums/synth/bv), Ryan Thomas Carpenter (piano/synth/bv), Camillo Jenny (drums/percussion/synth), Andreas Laudwein (bass), Ollie Samland (pedal steel guitar/synth), Ida Wenoe (bv) & Marlene Lacherstorfer (bass/“Melody in Nashville”).
Recorded in the Austrian countryside that environment seeped between the Americana melodies & produced a unique sound. “Be Thankful,” is a catchy, clever song while “One Foot (FT. Pressyes),” delves into a more progressive-70s niche. You’ll either like it or not. It certainly doesn’t fit with the other songs. It’s like singer-songwriter meets Foreigner. But that doesn’t mean the song is a dud. It isn’t. A different arrangement, & the lyric would suffice to say, work in a better arrangement.
Ian’s obviously a diversified singer-songwriter but song placement is a technique. More thought should be given about positioning when songs deviate. This song is rooted in 70s progressive-new wave. Should’ve been song 15 on the CD or left off.
Ideas do proliferate. There’s nothing boring about what Ian conveys though at times he overpacks the suitcase with half-baked ideas (“Melody on Tape”). It doesn’t serve as an intro or a segue. It breaks the momentum. It is, however, a good melody – that should be developed.
Ian’s voice while not distinctive or strong, has charm. As Gilbert O’Sullivan (“Alone Again, Naturally”) or Ralph McTell (“Streets of London”). Fisher finds his voice solidly on “Three Chords & the Truth.” Excellent. Another touch of brilliance comes on “It Ain’t Me,” a dynamic Norman Greenbaum-type guitar fuzz rocker (“Spirit in the Sky”). This is a spine-tingler. Wonderfully arranged & sung. Continuing with excellence is “Winterwind,” with expressive vocals & musicianship in a Clifford T Ward 70s tradition, & Ward had some beautiful stuff.
“Ghosts of the Ryman,” is tantalizing. Played with style. It’s not as heavily produced & searing as Duncan Browne’s last 2 LPs (“Streets of Fire,” “The Wild Places”), but Fisher is indeed entertaining.
The 44-minute CD is available at Bandcamp & https://ianfishersongs.com/home