A note to the music industry: Please let the hype pass by Steve Forbert, as it did not pass by Warren Zevon, David Forman and a number of other promising new singer-songwriters. That way, the raw and still-forming, but awesome talent that Forbert possesses may allow him to evolve into a major musical force.
Forbert, opening a two-night stand at the Cellar Door last night, is only 23 and his musical antecedents are both obvious and illustrious: Jimmie Rogers (with whom he shares a hometown, Meridian, Miss.), Woodie Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and John Prine. Unlike these seminal folk modernists, Forbert also has absorbed the energy and directness of contemporary rock and roll. In fact, he sounds very much like a subdued Rod Stewart, though more believable.
His lyric skills are highly developed -- with guitar and harmonica, he's basically a poet and one-man band -- though melodic diversity is still to come. As a performer, Forbert is engaging, particularly on songs that avoid the didactic tendencies of so many new songwriters. At this stage in his career, Steve Forbert is head and shoulders above the competition. With time, he could become a very important artist.
Opening the show were Robin and Linda Williams from Southern Virginia, by way of Nashville. Working with mostly original material, they remind one of the finest hours from duos like Ian and Sylvia, with stunning and clever harmonies.
They should be heard from more often.