Bob Neuwirth – Havana Midnight (2001)
Bob Neuwirth is known inside the music business as Bob Dylan’s associate during the mid-’60s and early ’70s. He eventually began to record his own music in the early ’70s, and while he has only recorded sporadically, critics have frequently sung his praises. Recorded in 1999 in Cuba, Havana Midnight beautifully documents the collaboration between Neuwirth and composer/arranger/pianist José Maria Vitier. The album’s spare, atmospheric sound immediately draws the listener’s attention on the title cut. Reminiscent of Terry Allen at his most mellow, an evocative combination of bongos, piano, and tabla lays down the ideal base for Neuwirth’s relaxed vocals. Both “The First Time” and “Dead Man’s Clothes” follow the opening cut in a calm, peaceful procession that quietly introduces themes of desire, lost dreams, and regret. As a whole, Havana Midnight unfolds like a soul’s journey in a strange land, both dark and beautiful. Lyrically, “Don Quixote” and “The Call” run deeper than the typical singer/songwriter fare, as if painted on a timeless canvas. The overall approach, musically, vocally, and lyrically, is low-key, as though a poet were whispering a desperate story to himself or herself late at night. The arrangements are an epitome of taste, and include such subtle touches as rain in the background at the beginning of “Havana Farewell.” Pianist Vitier and guitarist Rey Guerra add lovely fills to a number of cuts, deftly enhancing these proceedings. If fortune shines on the dark world of Bob Neuwirth, this recording will spread his good name and inspire listeners to seek out his older material.