Thursday, September 08, 2005

Such Is Life/Tony Arata

Throughout my years in Nashville I have discovered two unanticipated joys, the foremost of which is the strong bond of friendship I have been blessed to have with many like-minded dreamers. The second is the exhilaration and motivation I experience when coming into contact with an elegant piece of writing. In this humble review of Such Is Life, a collection of recently-released songs and recordings by Tony Arata, I celebrate both of these joys.

The beauty and completeness of Such Is Life is two-fold: Tony’s earthy, soulful and rhythmic gifts as a singer and guitar-player are the foundation of these recordings and secondly, this is a stunning collection of songs. No surprise there. From the steady parade of songwriters that have wandered the streets of Music Row over the past 50 years a precious few have risen with distinct voices: The Bryants, Harlan Howard, Roger Miller, Bob McDill, Don Schlitz, Dave Loggins. When the tale is done being told I believe the name Tony Arata will also be on that list.

This collection includes a few notable ‘hit’ songs that Tony has penned including the masterpieces “Here I Am” and “Handful of Dust,” both recorded by Patty Loveless. Curiously missing is the tune that put Tony on the map and one of the reasons Garth Brooks became Garth Brooks: “The Dance.” (Although a brilliant song it is forgivable that Tony chose not to include it here - it is on an earlier recording of his and also on about 17 Garth collections, which is one of the reasons Tony drives a big Avalanche and always pays for my beer.)
Other previously recorded titles included on Such Is Life are “Kickin’ and Screamin” (Garth again,) “Anonymous” (Garth again and again,) “Satisfied Mind” (Randy Travis and Hal Ketchum) and “Slower” (Dan Seals.)

I’ve never written a review before and I try not to read them. I tend to agree with the opinion of critics articulated by the great Irish poet and playwright, Brendan Behan who said: (and I paraphrase here) ‘A critic is much akin to a eunuch in a whorehouse: they can watch all night but they can’t do it themselves.’ But I am moved to share these few thoughts because the mystical blend of word, melody and delivery, so much missing in the writing and recording currently accosting our airwaves, is so apparently on display here. My favorite tracks are the ones in which I sense Tony being in total command of the process: “I’ll See You There,” “Don’t It Make the Beer Taste Better,” Kickin’ and Screamin’,” “Anonymous,” “Night By Night,” “Daddies and Daughters” and my unquestionably favorite Tony Arata song, “Satisfied Mind.” He is beautifully accompanied on Such Is Life by a stellar group of singers and musicians including Dan Dugmore, George Marinelli, Jr., Lee Roy Parnell (his co-writer on “Daddies and Daughters,”) Pat Alger, Kirk ‘Jellyroll’ Johnson, James Pennebaker, Debbie Nims-Allen and Matt Lindsey.

Get this CD folks. If you don’t like it Tony will send your money back or I’ll buy you a beer that Tony will pay for. If “Satisfied Mind” doesn’t make you wipe a few tears away please check your pulse. If “Kickin’ and Screamin’” doesn’t make your head bob you were born with no rhythm. If “I’ll See You There” doesn’t make you long for and love someone - go talk to the Tin Man.

Regarding ordering Such Is Life I am going to paste-in a message I received from Tony yesterday:

“if anyone goes to there is a way to tell then to send $ 16 to po box 41142 nashville 37204...I guess I should be more concerned about selling my cds and plan on getting on that right after I have another beer...let’s go eat some ribs, my friend...”