Given the melodic crispness and vitality of Artie Traum’s playing on his widely acclaimed instrumental recordings, notably 2004’s Acoustic Jazz Guitar, 2001’s The Last Romantic, and 2000’s Letters from Joubee, one could easily overlook his masterful songwriting abilities. And with his Lyle Lovett-like, comfortable-as-an-old-shirt vocals, and picking style that breezes from Greenwich Village through Birdland to the Catskills, it’s easy to understand why.
Opening with the effervescent “Bonnie Jean” (hey, Steely Dan, give Traum a call) the groove never stops. Try not moving to the bossa nova title track or the Brazilian bop of “Back in the Sugarcane.” With help from bassist Tony Levin, Traum’s take on the traditional “Cuckoo Bird” gets an especially percolating treatment. “Last Tree In The Bronx,” “Halifax,” and “That Secret Place” (the first and former co-written with Wendy Waldman) only serve to magnify Traum’s long-standing reputation for being a musical storyteller of the highest caliber.
Given an irrepressible vibe by producer Waldman, Traum’s all-star local band—Levin, drummer Gary Burke, pianist Warren Bernhardt and special guests like John Sebastian —lead us on an invigorating tour of Americana.