Reviews & Good Words for
"Baker's Cousin" (2022)
Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics
Joe Fahey: Baker’s Cousin (Rough Fish) “There’s a vaccine on the horizon/There’s a sunrise in the east,” the opener reports hopefully, but one-note melodies and $12 cocktails impinge as the insomnia that began with “that one election” never fully loosens its hold (“All Quiet on the Midwestern Front,” “Nobody’s Afraid of Ringo”) ***
Consumer Guide: January, 2023
Brad Luen Semipop Life Substack
Joe Fahey: Baker’s Cousin
“All Quiet on the Midwestern Front” is one of many great titles and several great lyrics which are often given all-quiet backing so you can hear that oh yeah, that one’s roasting Ted Cruz in cumin and a little achiote; otherwise, while the music isn’t as well-shaped as it was on February on Ice, sometimes it’s cathartic to let your producer go ham on his Mellotron while you rant about Abraham Lincoln’s Facebook (“Going to Cancun”, “All Quiet on the Midwestern Front”)
Lyndon Bolton: Americana UK https://americana-uk.com/joe-fahey-bakers-cousin
Joe Fahey “Baker’s Cousin”
Pithy yet perceptive views conveyed both gently and with verve.
On the first couple of spins this album’s greatest impact is the way tracks swing from quiet, almost quirky, acoustic musings to full-on indie rock with reverb blasting in all directions. It was a lot to take in. Fahey’s gentler side is certainly easier to get into where there is much to enjoy, but the overall effect is of an artist with plenty to say who is not afraid of doing just that in a variety of ways. Much credit must go to producer Dan Kowlake, who also plays just about every instrument on the record.
To follow up his 2021 release, ‘February on Ice’, Fahey set himself the objective of coming up with a “baker’s dozen” worth of songs for his fifth solo release. Pandemic and lockdown not only gave him lots of time for this task but plenty of inspiration, so much so that including some older songs he had a list of forty. With Kowlake he cut this back to the original number with the chaos and isolation of the times being the dominant themes.
Opener ‘All Quiet on the Midwestern Front’ places Fahey both geographically and historically, “there’s a vaccine on the horizon/ there’s a sunrise in the East/ there’s a peaceful, easy feeling/ it’s all quiet on the midwestern front”. Counting in this almost spoken intro to a sparse acoustic strum suggests folky, singer/songwriter with a quirky turn of phrase. The distorted electric guitar that flows adds to the feeling of timelessness that characterised lockdown days.
Next up is ‘Two Left Feet’ where in complete contrast, the amps are turned up as Fahey’s echoing vocals compete with a hail of fuzzbox fire. Lyrically the song lurches into imbalance far deeper than just “two left feet”. That is Fahey’s knack, using simple yet vivid language to make a serious point.
Fahey conveys that sense of lockdown disorientation with ‘Untethered’, a gentle acoustic muse about, “this unrelentless storm that never goes away”. ‘The Balmy Snows of June’ is Fahey’s take on climate change. A luscious electric line is the sonic equivalent of the isobars piling in to cause meteorological havoc. ‘The Day I Left The Flat Earth Society’ sees Fahey at his lowest ebb. Kowlake’s arrangements are suitably morose.
‘I Don’t Really Care’ is a chilling reminder of the events of 6 January 2021. A riff every bit and malevolent as those storming the Capitol accompanies, “the message on my phone “be there…/ it’s gonna be wild, wild, wild”/ we gotta fight like hell and stop the steal/ the storm is coming, reality’s gettin’ real”. Nothing quirky here.
Among these songs of contemporary American life it is perhaps surprising to encounter Ringo Starr. But nothing appears off limits to Fahey. ‘Nobody’s Afraid of Ringo’ comes with an almost country twang to which he pledges his admiration, “as everyone agrees he’s the G.O.A.T.”.
As for “sounds like” the best this reviewer could do was come up with is the Chuck Prophet vibe of ‘Down to the Wire’ with its frantic pace, spoken vocals over lots of distortion and keys darting in all directions. No doubt others will have their own ideas but on the strength of this record, and introduction to his music, Joe Fahey is an original. If any final convincing is needed then his final track, ’The Oldest Punk in the World’ should do the trick.
Peter Jesperson: Twin Tone Records/New West Records/Manager of the Replacements
Joe Fahey – Baker’s Cousin I’ve always liked eclectic records best, something I learned from The Beatles. Joe Fahey makes eclectic records. Baker’s Cousin opens with a song that has echoes of Loudon Wainwright, then follows it with a track that could’ve been on an album by The Fall. Joe’s my kinda guy, and he’s been at it for a long time. That he makes records for the love / fun of it, as opposed to be chasing a career, makes them all the more fun to listen to. I wish we lived in the same city so I could see him play, bet he’s fabulous in a coffee house setting. Beautiful packaging on the CD too. https://www.twintonedigital.com/2022
Tom Hull On the Web
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Joe Fahey: Baker's Cousin (2022, Rough Fish): Minnesota singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2006, too much rock reverb for country, but I suppose Americana might claim him. B+(**) [sp]
Dan Israel: Hardest working singer-songwriter in Minnesota
With strong production work (and virtuoso playing of almost every known musical instrument) by Dan Kowalke. If you think you would like an enticing combination of influences that, to my ears, includes Leonard Cohen, John Prine, and even Weird Al in places, I think you'll dig this record. Lots of strong songwriting and interesting turns of phrase, evoking both tears and laughter. Honestly, I laughed out loud several times while listening to it (and it hit me emotionally in many ways over the course of the 13 - or Baker's Dozen, I get the title now! - songs). Pick it up on Bandcamp or at your local Twin Cities record store. A fine batch of steaming hot new tunes from longtime songsmith Joe Fahey - straight from his musical oven to your ears!
Reviews & Good Words for
"February On Ice" (2021)
Robert Christgau Dean of American rock critics
Consumer Guide: April, 2021
Joe Fahey: February on Ice (Rough Fish) Twin Cities lifer Fahey hits the bullseye twice with the same song, the explicitly ecological “Dante’s Inferno,” which serves as both Crazy Horse-style opener and solo-acoustic closer: “What are you gonna do when the glaciers flood your basement?/What are you gonna do when you have to answer to Al Gore?” That plus its life’s companion we wish would grow old, the long overdue cheap shot “Fuck the Republicans,” would certainly inspire a guy to get his album on, especially with good ones that aren’t filler themselves close at hand. “Day Drinking With Dracula,” for instance, is a joke that comes easy. “I Feel So Alone Now” is so bereft you’ll feel a touch bereft yourself if you can just keep listening. A MINUS
Three of the picks in the April 2021 Consumer Guide at Substack were recorded 30-40-50 years ago, and then there's that White Stripes best-of. But all sound new, as do the two no longer young singer-songwriters and the two tested young Black pathfinders. https://t.co/fobkexdmcz
Tom Hull On the Web
Joe Fahey: February on Ice (2021, Rough Fish): Minneapolis singer-songwriter. Has a couple previous albums, but nothing Discogs or Wikipedia have noticed. Rocks some, chills out, lyrics tend to ramble, but unique enough he may be worth the trouble. Or maybe not. Choice cut: "Fuck the Republicans." B+(***)
Peter Jesperson Twin Tone Records Founder / The Replacements Manager
Joe Fahey – February On Ice Joe has been quietly and modestly making excellent records for many years under various guises and this album might just be his best to date.
Jim Walsh Author of The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting
“Beautiful moving smart sweet needed soulful funny funky fun “February On Ice”
Brad Luen "Semipop Life" Substack
Another of Minneapolis’s infinite supply of literate singer-songwriters, this one with four decades of microindie roots rock under his belt. In that time, he’s amassed a big bag of late 20th century guitar tones and has become effortless around a chord change. While he never turned into a prepossessing singer, his almost whispered low end makes you pay attention to the words, which, shock of shocks, are often the point. Strong at the couplet level, he evokes a suburban bliss that dystopia could invade at any moment; only “Fuck the Republicans” reveals that moment was four decades of microindie roots rock ago. Grade: B PLUS (“Dante’s Inferno”, “Day Drinking with Dracula”, “That Northtown Mall (Has Got It All)”)