There may be something about great country rock musicians that demands a passage of time to truly appreciate their art. Gram Parsons and Gene Clark reputations are higher today than in their lifetimes and other more obscure acts are often wheeled out as lost treasures. In this age of the internet and the instant download perhaps we can be less leisurely about recognising the talent in our midst and start to appreciate mastery of the songwriting art when it stares us in the face. Singers like John Prine, Richard Buckner and Jeffrey Foucault figure highly in this regard. Despite sounding like a French philosophy master Foucault is a singer-songwriter from Whitewater, Wisconsin with a deep resonating country voice and songs which are impressively literate and breath the air of the Great Lakes.
All his albums are packed with tales of the darker passageways of American life which require a keen ear and reflective mood. "Stripping Cane" is possibly his finest album not least since it contains one of the best country songs ever in "Northbound 35". Some songs are so special that words don't do justice suffice it to say that it gets better each listen, Foucault's voice makes you just want to listen and love especially on the chorus "Mustang horses, champagne glasses/anything frail - anything wild/It's the price of living motion/what's beautiful is broken". The album is populated with other great songs not least the gently rolling opener "Cross of Flowers" and the aching love song "The Bluest Blade" the track which initially cast the Foucault spell on this reviewer. Other highlights includes the reflective blues of "Tropic of Cancer", the authentic Appalachian feel of "Doubletree" and a great cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic "Lodi".
Jeffrey Foucault has recorded a number of albums since not least "Seven Curses" a covers record with Mark Errelli where he brilliantly takes on songwriters like Buckner and another stellar "lost" singer Paul Siebel. Equally albums like "Horse Latitudes" and "Ghost Repeater" are full of rich rewards. "Stripping Cane" is album which will probably be plundered in years to come by up and coming country artists looking to discover their muse and mare their mark with a unknown song of Foucault mastery. Frankly with the quality contained on "Stripping Cane" it would be a travesty to wait that long. A highly recommended, overlooked classic.
Review by Red on Black