LIVE: “Signals: Songs of Raymond Carver” @ Albany Public Library, 8/24/16

October 6th, 2016, 2:30 pm by Greg
Michael Eck and Paul Grondahl

Michael Eck and Paul Grondahl @ Albany Public Library’s Local History Room

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Ed Conway

Music meets books…
Songs meet stories…
Poems meet performance…

The Albany Public Library’s Reading Music series gives Greater Nippertown musicians the opportunity to dig in and create music inspired by works of literature.

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Singer-songwriter Michael Eck has taken on that challenge before, teaming up with Matt Durfee two years ago to present songs based on John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “East of Eden.”

But with “Signals: Songs from Raymond Carver,” Eck took it one step further. Armed only with an ever-shifting array of guitars, Eck performed a dozen new songs – an entire album’s worth – expertly crafted from the short stories and poems of one of the greatest American writers of the ’80s.

Helping to illuminate Carver’s work and his place in American literature, journalist-author Paul Grondahl teamed up with Eck to offer insightful biographical background on Carver, as well as readings of some of his works, most notably the spare but creepy short story, “Neighbors.”

Some of Eck’s songs were taken directly from Carver’s pithy, cut-to-the-bone writing, most notably “Work.” Others – like “Holly and Duane” and “I’m Glad You Wore Your Ring” – were clearly inspired by a particular Carver story (“Gazebo” and “Chef’s House,” respectively). And in the spirit of Robert Altman’s Carver-based 1993 film, “Short Cuts,” the final song of the evening, “What We Talk About,” nimbly wove together elements of several different Carver stories – “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “Neighbors,” “Will You Be Quiet, Please?” and “Beginners.”

I’m guessing that I wasn’t the only one who went home at the end of the 90-minute performance to read (or re-read) more of Carver’s stories. Now if only we could hear those songs again…

Michael Eck

Michael Eck

Paul Grondahl

Paul Grondahl