Sunday, January 3, 2010
Jimmy Buffett - Buffet Hotel
With apologies to Forrest Gump, Jimmy Buffett is like the anti-box of chocolates – you know exactly what you’re going to get. With every CD bought and every live show attended, the paying customer is guaranteed a sun-drenched, salt-rimmed good time. There are other places you can go if you want to be challenged or astounded, but sometimes you just want that familiar, comfortable cheeseburger. This year’s cheeseburger turns out to be pretty tasty. Bufett Hotel, Jimmy’s 42nd release, is inspired by a trip to Mali and the title comes from a hotel in Timbuktu where many Mali musicians got their start. The twelve tracks here are co-produced by longtime bandmates Michael Utley and Mac McAnally and guests include slide guitarist extraordinaire Sonny Landreth, Cedric Burnside and Will Kimbrough, who co-wrote four of the tracks and plays guitar, harmonica, banjo and mandolin.
In fact, full disclosure compels me to divulge that Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack’s band DADDY is one of my personal favorites and they grab the opening track here. “Nobody from Nowhere” is a song that doesn’t romanticize rural, small town life so much as it simply accepts it for what it is, where “waiting for a car to drive by, just so you can wave hello” is the highlight of your day, and that’s okay.
Drummer Roger Guth contributes “Big Top,” a tune that gently acknowledges that the circus that is the travelling Parrothead roadshow is a bit out of their control (“I’m an accessory in front of the pack.”) and Kimbrough chimes in again on “Surfing in a Hurricane,” which takes the opportunity to slap in a few surf-guitar licks for good measure. Otherwise, the rest of the record is a pretty standard selection of familiar ballads, a couple of uptempo tunes that are obviously slated for live shows, a decent cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Rhumba Man,” Bruce Cockburn’s wistful “Life Short Call Now” and “A Lot to Drink About,” a pretty clever, topical “high-speed drinking song.”
As Buffett says in the extensive liner notes (printed on recycled paper), “when you are lucky enough to get to a point in your life where you can basically do what you want, the trick is to be able to enjoy it.” This is not the Buffett of 1973, who indulged in penny-ante shoplifting (“Peanut Butter Conspiracy” from A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean), it’s been twenty years since this pirate looked at forty, and Buffet Hotel won’t garner him any new fans (not that he needs any), but it’s a pleasant enough listen. Buffett’s gift is making his enjoyment of life infectious, and on Buffet Hotel, he does just that.
Playgrounds Magazine January 2010