Danny O’Keefe – “Circular Turns”

Album Reviews | Nov 27th, 2023

Image used with permission for review purposes

Record Label: Sunset Blvd. Records
Genre: Folk/singer-songwriter
Buy on Amazon.com

It’s been a few years since we last heard from this talented singer-songwriter, but he’s back with a one-two punch on this two-CD set for Sunset Blvd. Records.

“Angel Spread Your Wings” will put you into a lolled-back kind of mood. A later track takes an anti-Van Halen, countryfied trip on “Runnin’ From the Devil” (if only Eddie had learned!). Something eerie is going on with “You Don’t Have to Be Right,” and I couldn’t stop listening. O’Keefe goes full country on “The First Time,” and his singing put me in mind of Willie Nelson—it’s among the album’s best. (O’Keefe’s compositions have in fact been performed by Nelson, Waylon Jennings and many others.) Follow-up track “When You Come Back Down” is a little more country-experimental, but give it a listen and see what you think. Other interesting tunes abound, including “Siamese Friends” and “Alone in the Dark,” which is just O’Keefe and his piano spinning an intriguing yarn of love. Disc 1-closer “Last Call” is a sultry, jazz-infused affair, with arguably O’Keefe’s best vocals on the album in counterpoint to a rather spirited harmonica.

Disc 2 is a live affair, recorded at the Creek House in St. Paul in 2016. It’s far more uneven than Disc 1, and likely its appeal will be to fans of deeply held convictions. However, there are some gems. O’Keefe is alone with his guitar to kick things off with “Help Me Up,” followed by a lively rendition of “Steel Guitar.” If you’re in the mood for some cognitive dissonance, check out “More Than Eva Braun,” which O’Keefe “dedicates” to KellyAnne Conway. “Pieces of the Rain” and its follow-up, “In Northern California (Where The Palm Tree Meets the Pine),” are both positively lovely, as is “Sleep,” with O’Keefe in fine form vocally. Your mileage may vary as far as how much you dig the live album, but if a rather talented man and his guitar performing inside a small venue is your jam, you could do far worse.

Disc 1:
Notable Tracks: Angel Spread Your Wings, You Don’t Have to Be Right, The First Time, When You Come Back Down, Alone in the Dark, Last Call

Disc 2:
Notable Tracks (Disc 2): Steel Guitar, More Than Eva Braun, Pieces of the Rain, In Northern California (Where The Palm Tree Meets the Pine), Sleep, Sidewalk Symphony


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