"Artistic Hair" is Steve Goodman the way many of his fans prefer him -- live and basically acoustic. Recorded in various clubs and concerts over the last 10 years, the album serves as a telling vinyl portrait of one of the most essentially good-natured songwriters and performers to emerge from the early '70s folk boom.
Goodman's sprightly guitar is in evidence throughout, particularly on the gypsyish "Tico Tico" duet with mandolin virtuoso Jethro Burns. But his voice sounds best in the sparser settings. A case in point: the gentle melodic wisps of "Old Fashioned," a love song celebrating traditional values in romance.
Elsewhere, he runs through some of his best-known songs, including "City of New Orleans," the acerbic "Chicken Cordon Blues," the uproarious "Elvis Imitators" and the jug-band jumper, "East St. Louis Tweedle-Dee." Goodman also includes a few favorite covers -- a stumbling but genuine "Winter Wonderland" and Shel Silverstein's glib "Three Legged Man."
The most compelling song, however, is Goodman's arrangement of the traditional folk song, "The Water Is Wide." A softly stroked guitar provides ghostlike support for Goodman's soaring and surprisingly sweet tenor, while David Amram evokes a slow Irish lament on tin whistle. It's pure Goodman. STEVE GOODMAN -- "Artistic Hair" (Red Pajamas 001). Appearing with Trapezoid and the Fiddle Puppets at Sunday at 2 at Wolf Trap.