Chris Acker – Odd, Ordinary, and Otherwise
Every record that was recorded in 2020 or early 2021 and is currently finding its way to my ears now is filled with a pervasive world weariness – go figure – but none more than Chris Acker’s Odd, Ordinary, and Otherwise. Yet somehow in the midst of the weariness where many lesser artists fall prey to hopelessness or cliché’, Acker finds wonder, meaning, and humor. In a meditative repeated phrase, “I don’t need a reason, I don’t need a reason, I don’t need a reason…” or a quirky couplet complete with contemplative jest, “at the laundry mat, folding the sleeves to my t-shirt back, watching my socks jumping like fish swimming,” Acker ponders life’s ups, downs, and in betweens. My dog, Loretta Jane, howls as if in solidarity as soon as Acker’s voice hits the stereo speakers – Acker’s ache can be felt across species.
Recorded in New Orleans with Nikolai Shveitser (pedal steel), Odd, Ordinary, and Otherwise sounds at once of a particular time and place and yet timeless all the same. As such, it marks an achievement many folk singer songwriters strive for but rarely reach. Instead of simply pulling from his folk writing heroes, Acker builds on their legacy. Mention of modern life’s mundanity mixes with simple folk leaning melodies that ease anxieties – Acker’s and the listeners. Acker gets away from screens and expectations and into a world of being instead of reasoning on “Walkin’.” “I like walking cause I don’t need a reason,” he sings.
Acker’s humor through a plucky singsong melody on “Styrofoam” as he wonders, “how she’d like my face if it didn’t look like this,” and confesses, “I want to feel you on my skin like Coppertone, I wanna beg wanna beg like a pay day loan,” and commits, ”I’m gonna stand my ground like a traffic cone, honey I’m gonna last like Styrofoam.” Insight in hindsight carries the day on the casual country two step of “Refinery” while “Caviar” pulses with the energy of Laurel Canyon songwriter rocker – laid back but with a delicate punch hiding around the corner. “Complimentary Continental” returns to the overt humor in lyrics and melody – an island groove replete with Hawaiian steel guitar and maracas. “I got a complimentary continental from a two star motel with a glowing vacancy sign…the mattress sinks, the bedsprings squeak, I ought to call housekeeping about these sheets, drinking wine in the tub, sleeping in until my checkout time,” starts Acker’s accounting of motel living.
Fans of John Prine and Todd Snider give Acker a listen to find a new voice in playfully insightful folk songwriting to champion. Out in August 20th on Gar Hole Records. https://chrisacker.bandcamp.com/album/odd-ordinary-otherwise