Monday, March 17, 2008

While She Was Working

Although this space is usually reserved for book reviews, I'm willing to bend my own rules and review a CD just this once because this one deserves attention. While She Was Working by Scot Sax offers a fun and lighthearted peek into the mind of a working musician. If his name sounds a little bit familiar, it may be because of the Grammy-winning and (for a time) inescapable "Like We Never Loved at All" by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, which Scot co-wrote. Then there were his various bands, Wanderlust and Feel chief among them, which earned Scot a loyal following with songs like "I Walked" and "I Am the Summertime," a fan-favorite from the American Pie soundtrack. Now that he's on his own, Scot can generally be found producing tracks for and touring with up-and-coming bluesy, folksy, breathy pop sensation Sharon Little, performing with his own traveling Saxploitation circus, or hosting Open Milk Night, which is, hands-down, the best open-mic series in the Philadelphia area. In short, the man never stops working, and it's a minor miracle that he managed to find the time to record the six quirky tracks on this CD.

Scot's previous musical outings found him exploring the ups and downs of life as an aspiring pop star. In 1995's "Stage Name," a track from Wanderlust's Prize, for example, Scot promised to take the fifteen minutes of fame that the rest of us would surely squander (a la Darva Conger) and do something remarkable with them. Later, with Feel and "Until They Close the World," he took on the guise of the quintessential rock hero who wouldn't stop rockin' until they... well, did what the title of the song suggests. And though Scot is now well into his [a-hem] mid-thirties, he's more or less keeping up his end of the bargain. Sure, he's not going after the brass ring of super-stardom anymore, but that's what gives his latest outing its magic. What we get with While She Was Working is a great-sounding, unpretentious snapshot of what a singer-songwriter does with his free time: have fun writing more songs.

The closest analogy I can make off the top of my head is Brian Wilson's "Busy Doing Nothing" from the Beach Boys' low-key 20/20 album. But the comparisons don't stop there. Throughout the CD, the influence of British Invasion bands is evident, and all of the tracks bear strong hints of The Beatles, The (latter-day) Kinks and David Bowie. I also detect faint traces of Daniel Johnston (the subject of the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston) and even Bob Carlton (a.k.a. Carl Bobton), one of Scot's Open Milk faithful. Overall, an excellent (if brief) collection of songs.

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