Ann Arbor Observer cover
In the Heights and a2tix
Ann Arbor Weather:
Wednesday April 25, 2018
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Jim Roll

Jim Roll

Novel collaboration

by Judson Branam

From the March, 2002 issue

Jim Roll has long been known as a literate and sometimes witheringly honest folk-rock wordsmith, and on his third CD, Inhabiting the Ball, he raises the literary stakes by taking on noted novelists Denis Johnson and Rick Moody as collaborators. Eight of the CD's eighteen songs feature lyrics by Johnson and Moody, and these, together with Roll's broad repertoire of folk, rock, and country music touches, make for a record rich with sonic surprises and heady lyrical twists. From the somber biography of "Eddie Rode the Orphan Train" to the sardonic spoof of "In-Flight Magazines," Roll's plainspoken tenor drives forward on an undercurrent of informed melancholy.

Perhaps inspired by the edgy-to-twisted wordplay of Johnson and Moody's more traditional verse, Roll's own incisive lyricism takes on a more ambitious literary bent in the five songs he wrote himself. "Bonnie and Clyde" is a rock song extolling the tough, violent vulnerability of Faye Dunaway's character in the film classic. "Orphan Train" tells the true story of an orphan exported from New York to Arkansas and put to work on a farm, and "Curious One" deals in the rarefied territory of the ancient Middle East and the sun goddess Anana.

Musically, Roll is clearly comfortable straddling several camps, whether he's playing solo or with a band, rocking out or finger-picking a folk song, revealing his own thoughts or putting music to those of another writer. Roll himself sums up the three-voice approach as "just freakish enough to fit together."

Like Roll's previous CD, Lunette, the new recording plays off the ragged edges of folk-rock, blending acoustic and fuzzed-out guitar tones, sweet pump organ, loose banjo, and plenty of open space. Time will tell whether Roll's latest goes down as a fresh direction melding sound and mind or just a literary curiosity — but it's an apt product to have sprung from the folk music-loving and literature-loving environs of Ann Arbor.

Jim Roll celebrates the release of Inhabiting the Ball on Tuesday, March 5, at the Blind Pig.    (end of article)

[Originally published in March, 2002.]

 



 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

From Gigi's to Maureen's
A Saline florist expands to Chelsea
Shelley Daily
The Evolution of Esquire Interiors
Wanda Barron's drapery business led the way.
Sabine Bickford
The Yearly Miracle
Early spring in the garden
Lee Lawrence
Melange
Innovative multiethnic mash-ups
M.B. Lewis
From the Colonnade to cyberspace
Stamatopoulos moves online
Sabine Bickford
Classes, Seminars, and Workshops
Shopping Overview in Saline
Films
First Pres Delivers
From U-M sports concessions to a Detroit food pantry
Jan Schlain
A Walgreens that's--Surprise!--Just a Pharmacy
Community specializes in chronic and serious illnesses.
Sabine Bickford
A guide to Ann Arbor Area Summer Camps for kids
Volvik L P G A championship May 21-27