Craig Bickhardt – Outpourings
I’m familiar with the outpouring of the vibrant singer-songwriter Craig Bickhardt. A consistently original fine musician who composes his soundscapes rooted in the tradition of many respected songwriters of the past. Craig maintains his own storytelling originality & picturesque musical shadings — nothing heavy-handed. He applies his life experience & wisdom to his work. Mindful of the late Tim Hardin’s most melodic tunes with Mickey Newberry cleverness, Dan Fogelberg vocal influence, Eric Andersen folksiness & the lyrical color of someone like Michael Smotherman (“Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?”).
Bickhardt’s a smooth balladeer & which comes with his appealing song craft. Outpourings (Drops Feb 1–Stone Barn Records) is a 13-track diversified assemblage produced by John Mock (classical guitar solo/pennywhistle/harmonium) & Craig (acoustic guitar/vocals) with a great inner spread layout & CD cover image by Aislinn Landolt.
With “England Or Me,” it’s a love song set in World War II Britain. Few mainstream songwriters ever apply this romantic intuition to create a story, not of their time. This is rooted in a true-life tale, but Craig personalizes it & infuses it meticulously with poignancy. It has a richness of middle-of-the-road Kenny Loggins, Fogelberg, Murray McLauchlan & Dean Friedman. But Craig’s more often than not a bit more absorbing. It’s hard to write music without having it suggest past songs or include cliches from older works. Yet, Craig tweaks each with his own ounce of resplendence. Songs are creatively simple & appealing.
Recorded in Nashville, TN & East Norriton, PA the 53-minute CD is a well-balanced collection of ballads & perceptive songwriting. “China Blue” — has guitar inspired by the dazzling work of musicians like the late Bert Jansch & late John Renbourn. Both are from the remarkable English 60s folk band Pentangle.
Craig fills his songs with unique subjects. Keeps the material compelling & absorbing throughout. That’s actually part of a good songwriter’s responsibility – not to tell the same stories over & over again, rewrite what’s already been done. And if it’s a love song find a new angle. Craig has always followed this map with skill alone or with co-writers.
The oddly titled “Ha’penny Standup,” & the sophisticated exceptional “If Coins Were Holes,” sound like vintage John Martyn. Likable, eccentric & intriguing. Creative sugarless tunes.
Musicians – Byron House (acoustic bass), Linda’s nephew — Michael G. Ronstadt (cello), Tommy Geddes (drums), Catherine Styron Marx (grand piano/synth), Pete Wasner (grand piano/Wurlitzer/Hammond organ), Tom Hampton (lap steel/baritone electric guitar), Bill Miller (Native American flute/gourd/war cry) with The Harmony Singers (Aislinn Landolt, Jonell Mosser & Tom Hampton).
Highlights: “Ancient Lullabies,” “England Or Me,” “She Won’t Be Yours Alone,” “China Blue,” “Ha’penny Standup,” “Fire Of the Spirit,” “Steal Home,” “I Don’t Know About Love At All” & “If Holes Were Coins.”
Color image courtesy of Facebook/Photography Robert Berkowitz/RSBImageWorks. CD @ CDBaby + http://www.craigbickhardt.com/