Some souls seem to dwell in an age earlier than our own. Take Julian Fauth - still in his mid-thirties, his songs don't just mimic the masters of pre-war blues, they sound as though they're part of the very fabric of a time now irretrievably gone.
Fauth has been one of Toronto's most consistently busy musicians since hitting The Big Smoke in the mid-90's. Countless hours on the piano bench, pounding out barrelhouse blues and boogies in joints all over town, have shaped his music in the time-honored way – through experience and exposure and keen observance of life's crazy carnival.
So rather than referential tunes steeped in sepia-toned nostalgia, we get Fauth's own razor-sharp compositions that vary from the updated yet traditional-sounding “Maggie Campbell” (with some lyrics borrowed from Tommy Johnson) to the surreal unfolding of events in “East Toronto Nervous Breakdown.” There's outrage over the world's injustice (“The Man On The Box”) and a story-song dealing with disaster (“Burnin' Down”), along with tales of love won and lost. Covers include a radically re-worked, almost jaunty “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” Guitar Slim's “Done Got Over That,” and a rousing rendition of Sister Rosetta's Thorpe's “Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down” that closes the disc on a triumphant note.
Fauth proves he's anyone's equal on the ivories, in true barrelhouse fashion favoring driving rhythms with just enough inventive flash in his fills to keep things endlessly interesting. He also shows himself to be an accomplished guitarist on a pair (including the title track). His voice is a little thin but his mannered singing makes the most of it – it's the one aspect of his music, though, that suggests a bit more seasoning would be of benefit.
Accompanists are too numerous to list but include some of Toronto's finest working musicians. Acoustic instrumentation dominates, from regular cohorts Jason Danley and Donne Roberts on guitars to the handful of harmonicists helping out. Of note is the inclusion of Andrew Jureka's violin on three tunes, an unusual addition that adds to the somewhat old-timey feel that permeates proceedings.
Fauth has accomplished something special here, crafting a collection steeped in tradition that nonetheless sounds fresh and vital. A little offbeat, perhaps, but well worth repeated listening …