Jack | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Smiling at a Blind Man



Jack's press-kit photo depicts five ordinary-looking, educated Pittsburgh guys and gals hanging out on a porch. They obviously listen to WYEP, like the Indigo Girls, Jayhawks, Slaid Cleaves, and possibly a bit of Neil Young or Bob Dylan. They have regular jobs ... creative-writing professor, robotics scientist, social worker ... and aren't in search of musical fame and fortune. But they'll prowl the local open-stage circuit after dinner is eaten and the dishes are washed.


None of which means they can't write a decent song. In fact, there are four capable songwriters on this disc, each sharing about equal mic duties while the others provide mildly rollicking folk-rock backup, pleasant harmonies, and a steady diet of conga and guiro.


George Kantor (who leads Calliope acoustic Tuesdays at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern) is the standout soloist, on mandolin and acoustic guitar. His songs take an earthy, white-bluesy tack on the observational singer-songwriter genre, while the other guitarist, David LaRose, pens more introspective or political lyrics (his anti-war screed "Our Son" applies as much to Iraq as Vietnam). Vocalist Stacy Kates ... the best singer of the three ... writes gently irreverent, Seinfeldian witticisms (e.g., in days of high gas prices, it pays to have a boyfriend with a fuel-efficient car), which should elicit knowing chuckles from crowds who identify with her mundane predicaments.


This band isn't trying to be the next great roots phenomenon on World Café or Austin City Limits. The musicians probably be happy to get some local airplay, so their co-workers and friends could hear them next to Good Brother Earl and Bill Deasy. Most likely, they'd also be thrilled to pieces to play the house party on your street.


These folks could be your neighbors. So, in a sense, you already do know Jack.

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