Rick Drost just dropped his engaging and interesting folk album Turning The World, and it’s hard to stop listening to his gently, quietly appealing songs. This Cambridge, Massachusetts-based folk songsmith has been writing and singing his own songs since his college days in the 1960s. Yet, this is actually his first solo album of his own material, and, as he’s no longer a young fellow, all we can wonder is what took him so long.
Opening cut “Don’t Remember Train” has a haunting, rippling vibe. One can sympathize with the narrator who can’t quite recall a moment in a time from his youth. Drost’s tingly acoustic guitar notes and his folksy vocal delivery give this one a likeable, engaging sound, constantly drawing one into its unfurling and alluring lyrical theme.
Title track “Turning The World” reflects on how everyone has a small impact on the world they live in ways large and small. With references to flower species, church organs, choirs, and places of worship, Drost takes in many images of life and elevates them to a level of religious reflection. His soft timbre and gentle delivery make it come to life as much as the light touches of acoustic guitar and emotive violin.
“Old Player Piano” gets it backing from, naturally, a piano, and that Doug Hammer tinkled keyboard provides a special line of notes that take sweet baby steps across the tune. Chris Frank’s accordion line is another fine touch as it politely asserts itself into the soundscape. Drost here sings in considerate measures, just enough voice to milk each of his notes and his lyrical moments for all their worth. This singer-songwriter simply coaxes a lot of emotion out of his words and melodies by taking it easy on them, pressing them without seeming to press for full value of each moment.
“Wyethstown” hearkens back to a town of Drost’s youth where he lost his best friend to a life of adventure after a railroad came to town. Mournful violin and tender acoustic guitar work create the perfect forlorn sentiment for this song. Drost is wistful and reflective, making the listener feel the impact of losing someone close to a modern development in the town where the bond of friendship was formed.
The whimsical “Got A Little Corner” thrives on its jaunty rhythm and on Drost’s lilting vocal line, delivering his warm lyrics with gleeful merriment. Drost is informing the rival who won his girl that he’s the actual winner because he still occupies her thoughts. Bill Newton’s bopping harmonica line and Ed Butler’s shuffling percussion groove assist the lively feel of this tune. as Drost has fun rubbing it in that his rival will be drinking his favorite wine and tasting his cooking because he maintains an emotional in with this girl.
Returning to his folksy reflective side, Drost glides into “Pictures On The Wall,” a wistful glance back at a once happy marriage that fell to pulling tides. Drost makes one feel the bittersweet sorrow of reflecting on pictures taken during that marriage, walking the listener through his joyful reflections than masterfully balancing the joy of the past with the cold reality of the present.
“Revendon” continues with the theme of a failed relationship. This tale is even more wistful than the previous track of lost love. Drost indicates that the failed relationship was only a fantasy to begin with, something that its protagonist had no way of ever capturing never mind holding onto. The forlorn but persistent melody seems to keep telling the protagonist to get over it, even though it seems he never will.
Sadly, he can’t get over a fantasy that he never lost.
The clever, lively “Lucky Lobster Rag” conjures a sense of 1920s jazz. Bill Newton’s snazzy soprano sax line is bright and vibrant enough to put a shine on this tale about lobsters meeting dire fates. Jon Shain’s nimble banjo picking is another plus. Seafood and ocean idioms abound juxtaposed with fanciful dining areas and condiments, joining with the sweet melody and Drost’s air of joviality in a perfect concoction.
If animal life be tragic, then Drost can capture it no matter the habitat. “Juli And Romy” is a tale of two swans named Romeo and Juliet living in the pond at Boston’s Public Garden. These two beloved creatures are marked more for what they inspire in the citizens who notice them as they pass through their world. Drost captures the beauty of what these swans represent with a balance of reverence and caution.
“Still Point” calls on us to celebrate the moment we are living in before it becomes a fond memory. Drost has no issue with past joys, yet he gently presses his listeners to move on, to find other pleasures in the time being. His wistful vocal approach, smooth but reaching tenderly, creates a sense of nostalgia for all that’s past by. Drost gingerly plays his tender acoustic guitar notes, conjuring a second layer of emotion underneath his voice and lyrics, tugging his listener further into his message.
“Buffalo” finds Drost returning to his sense of humor. He sings of wanting to play in a bar all night long. The barrier to this in his younger days was the laws and ordinances. In his older days, his barrier becomes the need for someone his age to take a restful break early in the evening. A bouncy acoustic guitar line, some honky tonk piano work, and a perky percussionist keep this one as lively as its lyrics and jovial singer require of it. It’s just a fun song one would want to listen to repeatedly.
Drost closes out his debut album with “Season Search,” another of his find the meaning of life by examining the past through reflection songs. Again, Drost succeeds by balancing past glories and losses with the present day reality. Here, he skips through the seasons of different years to arrive at a mature man’s understanding of his life. Kaitlin Grady’s mournful cello and some light keyboard work by FJ Ventre underscore the sense of all that one leaves behind when one moves forward in life. Yet, Drost makes those moments from the past as meaningful and poignant as if they are happening in the present time, and they are, as they are the sum of experiences that make a man who has become.
Drost should have starting making albums like this 50 years ago. It’s hard to guess why he would wait to share his words and music via a recorded document. But, it was worth the wait. He offers a lot to the heart, soul, and mind as well as to the ears of acoustic, folk music fans. Numerous nice touches and several instances of clever wordplay dot the landscape of this work.