Blaze Foley Oval Room Review

Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Blaze Foley was an odd kind of troubadour with an old fashioned code of doing the...

Darren Overs Pearson 2005

Blaze Foley is a man whose voice alone tells his short life story with wit, grit and whisky chasers. It's well worth hearing.

Oval Room is the second instalment of live recordings made at Austin's Outhouse bar. Although other tapes exist, all have been lost, stolen or, in one case, confiscated by the FBI. Despite this, Foley's songs have been recorded by the likes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett.

He joined the family business at first, singing in a gospel act called The Fuller Family. Striking out on his own, he played the bars of Austin, Houston and New Orleans through the '70s and '80s, getting drunk and sleeping on friends' floors. Vowing never to get a job, he remained homeless, buying his clothes in charity shops and adorning them with duct tape.

The Outhouse was the only place Foley was regularly booked and maybe because of its less than salubrious reputation he appears quite at home. Surrounded by friends, some stepping up for accompaniment duties, he kicks off with "Oval Room" lampooning Ronald Reagan with lyrics that could apply to any president before or since. Following on with "My Reasons Why", he sets the tone for all his ballads; these are tender interludes that never outstay their welcome.

"Wouldn't That Be Nice" demonstrates some exquisite paranoia along with the absurdly macabre "Springtime In Uganda". My personal favourites are the miserable "Cold Cold World" and the agreeably philosophic "Big Cheeseburgers And Good French Fries".

Blaze Foley was an odd kind of troubadour with an old fashioned code of doing the right thing, standing up for the underdog and saying what you really think. Weeks after this recording session he was gunned down while looking out for an old friend. He was 39.

"A beautiful loser" was how Lucinda Williams described him and as an itinerant, homeless drunk whose life and songs commanded such love and respect among his friends, it seems a fitting epitaph. As one mourner at his funeral pointed out "I don't think there's a person here who hasn't been embarrassed by his honesty".

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