Greg Trooper casts a simple spell with voice, wit
Live albums from Nashville artists tend to be of the
big-scale variety, with stadium crowds screaming for Kenny Chesney, Alan
Jackson or other stars.
Yet most live music, including some of the finest live
music, takes place in simpler, humbler settings. Dozens of Nashville
singer-songwriters make their living on the road, driving from town to
town and putting on shows that feature nothing in the way of choreography,
lighting or even backing musicians. It's the musicians' equivalent of a
street-level fistfight, and Greg Trooper is one of those who's up for the
fighting. The BackShop Live (produced by Matt Ranck) captures his performance last January at a
small South Carolina room, where he delivered 16 songs and a few stories,
armed with an acoustic guitar, a voice and his wits.
Those things provided a night that was more entertaining
than most of our big-ticket, tour bus-riding artists are able to deliver.
It's kind of like that Christmas morning that the Whos had down in
Whoville after the Grinch stole the packages and boxes and bags: The
simplicity, songs and spirit of the occasion were more valuable than all
the accouterments we've come to expect. Trooper's a funny guy who tells
good stories, but those are mostly there to set the table for words and
melodies that don't necessarily set him in any recognizable commercial
context, save for the amorphous "Americana" genre. His writing and singing
are there for the listening, not the marketing. The BackShop album itself
isn't in stores: It's available at http://www.gregtrooper.com/.
It's worth buying, too. Trooper has one line that goes
"I think you're lonely as a Sunday morning that never had a Saturday
night," and he has a song called "Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas)"
that is all gentle, soulful sacrilege. " 'I am the greatest,' he said with
a grin. 'He was talking about you, not about him,' " is a line from that
And then there's one called "When I Think of You My
Friends" that celebrates the fellow songsmiths Trooper knows are spinning
wheels towards other towns. For a moment, the listener wonders what other
shows could have been going on that January night. But that's just for a
moment, and then Trooper's spell is back in place. •
— PETER COOPER, STAFF WRITER