Friday, November 13, 2009

La Belle Poisoneuse - Guthrie Thomas

La Belle Poisoneuse 1

La Belle Poisoneuse
Guthrie Thomas
Eagle Records

I had never heard of Guthrie Thomas before, a fact that I deeply regret. He's had quite a career, with a ton of albums (most of seem to be very hard to find, even the ones released on CD recently) and a ton of connections. He's played with Ramblin' Jack, Arlo Guthrie, and Ringo Starr. He's also a pharmacist. And a damn good singer/songwriter.

This album is a collection of acoustic songs. It's just Guthrie and a guitar and a set of well-crafted songs. There's some good fingerpicking on these tracks, but it's not the focus. He's got an earth baritone voice that is expressive and appealing and imbued with confidence and urgency. He reminds me of one of my heroes, the great John Stewart. Lyrically, he is more straightforward than Stewart. His songs don't have the poetic imagery or clever hooks that Stewart has, but there's something warmly honest about these songs, in their archetypal nature, and in their balance between sorrow and joy. I don't think any of these songs could be called "sad" or "happy," they are a mixture of the two. On one hand, these songs celebrate life and love, on the other, they regret the toll of the road, and loneliness and uncertainty. He mentions his daughter more than once, and I get the sense that the "poisonous beauty" alluded to in the title is the life of the folksinger - the allure and freedom of the open road, the compulsion to write and sing, offset against the responsibilities of fatherhood and the loved ones left behind. My personal favorite is "Knowin' that She's Waitin'."

Released in 1979, only 500 copies were pressed. It's now a pretty rare find. I really want to get some more of his albums. His web site is really the only source of information about him, and it doesn't give any details about tour dates, and it doesn't have an online store, which is frustrating. I don't know about the rest of you, but with a lot of my favorite artists, I try to buy their albums directly from them, at a concert, to make sure the money's not going to some chain store or something. If anyone's seen him in concert, I'd love to hear about it.

Here's his official page. Looks like he's a jack-of-all trades, selling guitar picks and such as well.
Guthrie Thomas Official Web Site

  1. You Can't Buy No Love Songs
  2. You Make it Easy
  3. Knowin That My Baby's Waitin'
  4. Come to a Road
  5. What Must I Do
  6. Will I Love Again
  7. If I Could Find the Words
  8. Sarah Maris
  9. Catch the Clown
  10. Lady on the Piano

Download Album Here