"Passing Through” - CD Review by Mike Jurgenson
published in FOFF newsletter March 2011

Every once in a while, you come across a CD that just seems to “fit” like a comfortable pair of old jeans, worn through at the knees and patched with love, that you just want to wear all the time. Such is the feeling I got listening to The Roadside Revue’s latest CD, “Passing Through”. The Roadside Revue comprises the Florida folk community’s favorite power couple Ron and Bari Litschauer, together with Dawn DeWitt and Stan Geberer, and topped off on this project with a little Wayne Martin and Clyde and Lorelei Walker for good measure. Not to overdo the old jeans metaphor (or simile), this is a CD that you just might wear out over time- it’s been in my car’s CD player for several weeks now. It is packed with 15 songs that range from the ridiculous (like “Only Baloney”, written by Ron to the tune of Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely”, or “The Fly”, adapted from a Southern Culture on the Skids tune) to the sublime (listen to “Ancient Tunes”, another gem from Ron, with a little help from Grant Livingston). In other words, it’s vintage Roadside Revue fare, their third project, following their previous releases “Around the Next Corner” and “Getting Out of Town” (I detect a CD title ”theme” there somewhere).

But, rather than simply “Passing Through”, it appears that these guys have arrived. All of the band members are extremely talented musicians; Ron on guitar, mandolin, and piano, Bari on banjo, mandolin, and guitar, Dawn on bass and guitar, and Stan on harmonica (wow!) and guitar. As an interesting aside, I understand that Stan even plays the harmonica upside down (no, not standing on his head). And, of course, Wayne Martin is a virtuoso fiddle player (although Wayne is so good, it might be more appropriate to call it a violin). And Clyde Walker is no slouch on fingerstyle guitar, as he proves in his accompaniment on Ron’s “Bad Sally” and the old Elizabeth Cotton favorite “Freight Train”. Combine all of this with crisp, clean vocals, and the result is a great listen.

Those who have followed The Roadside Revue over the years have come to appreciate the diversity of material that they bring to the stage, and they showcase that diversity in the variety of selections on this CD. In addition to Ron’s originals and adaptations mentioned previously, and another of his entitled “Bad Sally” (one of my favorite campfire tunes), Dawn brings to the mix her 2010 Will McLean “Best Florida Song” winner “Withlacoochee Way” and “Swamp Envy”, which, rumor has it, she wrote after visiting Stan’s new home, which is situated on a marshy lakeside. The CD also offers up traditional songs, such as “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and the aforementioned “Freight Train”. And, of course, no Roadside Revue recording would be complete without a nod to a few of the giants among Florida songwriters, in this case to Frank Thomas (“Why”), Don Grooms (“Whipporwill”), and Steve Blackwell (“I Live on a Gravel Road” and “Right Before Our Eyes” , which was co-written by Jack Williams). Also included on the CD is another of my favorite Roadside Revue songs, “Grandma’s Song”, written by Gail Davies, and the CD’s title song, “Passing Through”, written by Catie Curtis and Mark Erelli. The CD ends fittingly with Stan’s haunting instrumental “Far Away to Sea”.

In short, The Roadside Revue’s new CD, “Passing Through”, has something for everyone; sometimes whimsical, sometimes reflective, but always entertaining, tasteful, and well produced- in other words, thoroughly enjoyable. If I may mix my metaphors, it’s a little like comfort food consumed around a campfire for a Florida folkie, and certainly no one who has followed and enjoyed The Roadside Revue in the past will be disappointed. And for those few of you who aren’t familiar with them yet, dig in!