About the author: Jim Hynes Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and formerly Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live Music Host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.  

Revered Folk Singer John Gorka Lends His Gentle Touch On ‘True in Time’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

John Gorka has one of those singular voices that’s immediately recognizable not only for its deep resonance but for its warmth and comfort. On Gorka’s fifteenth album, “True in Time,” his patented delivery and intimate guitar are supported by a stellar cast of Minneapolis-based (Gorka’s home town) musicians who laid down these tracks in a mere three days. It was recorded “old school” style with all playing together in one room, reacting spontaneously and inventively to the demo tracks Gorka and his longtime producer Rob Genadek had circulated prior to the recording.

Gorka had worked with these musicians before but it had been ten years since he recorded this way. Gorka comments in the liners, “It was great fun to be in the middle of all that musical commotion. They were all smart, funny and kind as well as being excellent players. A lot of the keeper takes came quickly with one or two songs taking a little longer. Choosing ‘the’ take was often difficult.” He adds there was very little overdubbing or editing. Players included Tommy Barbarella on keys, J.T. Bates on drums, Dirk Freymuth on electric guitars, Joe Savage on pedal steel and National Steel, Joe Sayles on upright bass, and Enrique Toussaint on electric bass. Given that Gorka has often collaborated with other singers, he felt it important to add harmony voices. Hence, Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilkyson, Jonatha Brooke and others make appearances on select tracks.

The songs span a lyrical spectrum from the spirit lives of dogs, to the people of Taos Pueblo, to the idea that all songs manifest in time, to the humor in “The Body Parts Medley.” Fortunately, he provides capsules for each of the songs in the liners. Some of them have some very intriguing origins. For example, Gorka comments on the title track, “I wrote the title track with Pete Kennedy. When Carrie Fisher and her Mom, Debbie Reynolds died within a day of each other I quoted lines from Paul Simon’s Mother & Child Reunion son on Facebook – ‘Oh I would not give you false hope on this strange and mournful day. But a mother and child reunion is only a motion away.’ Pete responded, ‘Maybe all songs come true in time.’ Later he wrote, ‘True in time sounds like a song’ and we proceed to write the song long distance via the internet.”

Both “Arroyo Seco” and “The Ballad of Iris & Pearl” were created at Eliza Gilkyson’s songwriter workshop near Taos, NM. You’ll hear several cultural references like “The People of the Red Willow” which is what the Taos Pueblo people call themselves. “The Ballad of Iris & Pearl” was inspired by the spirit of the names of Eliza’s two dogs. “Nazarene Guitar” is about a twenty-year-old Martin guitar and is dedicated, as it turns out, to one of my favorite places, the long-running Godfrey Daniels Coffeehouse in Bethlehem, PA. Gorka says that a lot of the songs on the record remind him of Utah Phillips’ line “The past didn’t go anywhere” and Faulkner’s line “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Three of the songs were unearthed from past efforts but had never been recorded. They include the humorous “The Body Parts Medley,” Red Eye and Roses,” and a really observant song about legendary blues singer Son House. “Blues With a Rising Sun” that was written when Gorka discovered that House was still alive and living in Detroit. He mailed House a cassette but never knew if he heard it. Like most of Gorka’s work, these well-crafted tunes will not only stand the test of time, but will be true for years to come. He is a masterful singer-songwriter.

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