Concert review: Jeffrey Foucault impresses a seated Off Broadway, Thursday, April 26
Part John Prine, part Dylan, part lonely cowboy swilling whiskey out on a moonlit prairie, Jeffrey Foucault has a chameleonic sound. This quality enhances the troubadour’s grace and emboldens the emotional power of the music.
Many of Foucault’s moving ballads are concerned with introspection and love lost, often couched in the loneliness of travel. “Starlight and Static,” from 2011′s “Horse Latitudes,” washed over the crowd at Off Broadway with tight hammer-ons and dulcet picking. Foucault’s voice stood alone, unlike on the studio version, lending the song new-found power and humanity.
“Pretty Girl in a Small Town” conjured Tom Petty vibes, as well as heartache elusively playing the edge of fiery expression, an effect conjured in all of the evening’s songs, performed stripped-down, solo and subdued. No drums, no bass, no keys — no back up anything — just a guitar and Foucault’s pure, north-country drawl.
“Ghost Repeater,” from the 2006 album of the same title, suggested Steve Earle crossed with Drive-By Truckers. The zydeco accordion featured on the studio version was absent here, which, again, lent the song a certain satisfying emotional resonance.
“Goners Most,” full of crystalline moments concerned with death and dreaming, brought the quiet warmth of Foucault’s voice to the forefront. The man is a poet, for he made “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” new again simply by adding a “for” before each phrase. An interlude lulled the audience with a delicate mood as light as crêpe paper. Before anyone knew it, Foucault’s fingertip released a final hammer-on and the instrumental melted into the nothingness of silence.
As Foucault neared the end of his set, he offered up the most satisfying version of “Passerines” I have ever heard — studio or otherwise. Again, the pedal steel and backup vocals of the album version were appropriately absent. “Nothing I Wouldn’t Do,” from 2010′s “Cold Satellite,” told the story of a man who would do anything for his woman, but Foucault made the well-worn idea new by layering the scene with details of the landscape, which he then masterfully conflated with his love.
“Train to Jackson” depicted the artist weary from travel and seeking advice from an elder: “I took a name, I found a range where my voice can make no sound. I met a man that told me son, ‘I can see you’re on the run, and if you tell me where you’re going, I’ll tell you where you’re bound.’” The notion of being “bound” for a location during a journey is one thing, but Foucault enriches the notion by suggesting how humans can be, in-fact, “bound” by travel.
Fan-favorite, “Everybody’s Famous,” marked the close of Foucault’s show. Electric and eclectic like a Califone tune, the song built dynamically with stuttering, palm-muted guitar and Foucault’s clement lyrics. At this point, a rudimentary understanding of Foucault’s true power set in; I realized I was connected to something larger, something real. There we all were, enraptured by Foucault’s music, growing more captivated each passing moment. In this whizzing, digital age, achieving such real connection is an invaluable gift.