Singer-songwriters often struggle to bring fresh personality to the musical equation — something different from the billion other starving artists crooning in their self-absorbed emotional states.
Randy Meenach doesn’t face that problem. His singing style is an acquired taste (in part because he has a Bob Dylan-tinged nasal quality). And he writes songs that roam for an eternity (eight or nine minutes). But Meenach’s eccentric perspective on this crazy universe is instantly intriguing, even if it’s filled with characters we never fully understand. Including the songwriter himself.
These are haunting, perceptive stories, even when Meenach’s stream of consciousness meanders. During “Cloudy Eyes,” he segues from staring into the fading eyes of his dying parents into self-examination about the futility of life itself: “Watching all your beauty goin’ down the sink,” he sings softly. “You sign your name with disappearing ink.”
A dozen musicians at Boise's Audio Lab helped fill out these folk and Americana songs; the sax buried in the background of the upbeat “Don’t Wanna Get Up” is strangely perfect for the arrangement. That contrast and variety from full-band instrumentation helps Meenach's quirkiness feel even more compelling when given space -- as a lone-wolf acoustic guitarist with a flawed voice. He sings. He strums. He sings some more. And then he reloads for yet one more detail-packed, mystery-filled verse.
It goes without saying that Meenach’s life isn’t just a “Bowl of Cherries.” Melodically, the title track is beautiful in its quiet simplicity. Lyrically, it’s probably the most esoteric trip on the album. As Meenach sings about a baby raised from the dead, fireflies streaming from a woman’s eyes, and the feeling of someone else’s liver spots — pausing for silence between imagery — it’s easy to envision this as a metaphor for the cerebral experience of listening to his music, period: “The gin in her vein burned a hole in her brain,” he sings. “She fell through it, then asked for more.”
Randy Meenach and Ryan Bayne perform April 25 at a record release party for each of them at the Visual Arts Collective in Garden City. $5. Doors at 7 p.m.