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John Gorka

True in Time – 2018 (Red House)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by John Gorka

When it comes to songwriting, folk troubadour John Gorka is a man of few words. He has an ability to evoke emotions and feelings that sometimes overwhelm while keeping the word count down. Coupled with his deft touch on a Martin acoustic is why his discography feels like an in the round session at the Bluebird on a Thursday night. "True In Time," his 15th album and first new studio record since 2014's "Bright Side Of Down," is no exception.

He recorded it like a Midwestern version of Laurel Canyon. His long-time supporting cast of Minneapolis-based musicians recorded with all playing together in one room, reacting spontaneously to the demos Gorka and longtime producer Rob Genadek had sent out prior to the recording. "Nazarene Guitar" rolls along with deft finger picking and is about a 20-year-old Martin Guitar and is dedicated to the long-running Godfrey Daniels Coffeehouse in Bethlehem, Pa. As the tracks move in succession, the notes get smaller while the air in the arrangements continues to grow. Much of the appeal of Gorka's minimalistic playing style is the strategic use of the space in and around the melody.

"The Ballad of Iris & Pearl" was inspired by the spirit of the names of a fellow songwriter's two dogs. It is a clever tale about influencing the careers of the likes of Robert Johnson. He also tackles the downside of aging and being forsaken for a younger man and hopelessness with elegant and simple lyrics like "We get so used to losing until we're lost, too."

It's not clear what the usually insightful Gorka was going for with the corny ode, "The Body Parts Medley," but it is a throw away and a reminder that the usually intense Gorka does not take himself seriously all the time.

If you allow a mulligan, "True in Time" is a typical study in folk proficiency by a consummate troubadour.