from a real good songwriter

From a Real Good Home (ARCD)
Alan Rhody

By Bob Bahr

This is one of those albums that makes the listener pick up each song and look them over like one would consider a selection of precious gems. Some you like right away, some are classics for all time, some you know you'll never care about. With the self-produced From a Real Good Home, Nashville singer/songwriter Alan Rhody has a passel of high-grade jewels in hand.

Actually, Rhody should be billed as a songwriter/singer, because his ability to write good American songs far exceeds his vocal abilities. "Drifter's Wind," "Real Big Country," and "Trainwreck of Emotion" show his power with the pen; "The Mother Road" and "Charlene and the Quarterback" aptly reveal his good to middlin' singing. The live tracks, recorded at the 1995 Kerrville Folk Festival, just give a hint of Rhody's warm stage presence, but they still manage to show that a person needs nothing more than an acoustic guitar to pack a punch.

A few missteps might raise your eyebrow — "Charlene and the Quarterback"'s transsexual bawdiness is a bit crass, "Hanging Out in the Highlands" fails to capture the feeling of Louisville's boho neighborhood — but one quickly shifts attention to the Jimmy Buffettes-que breeze of "New Maria," the songwriter's in-joke humor of "One of Two Thousand" (which refers to the number of songwriters that have been tapped by George Jones) and the wistful, post-Dylan sound of "That's Who I'd Be." And somebody could make a lot of money from the title track, a tune that reeks of ruggedness, perceptive observations and mild poeticism.

Something about a bad singer/songwriter makes the whole genre intolerable. Alan Rhody is one of those few good ones that makes such generalizations a mistake, and From a Real Good Home is all the proof you need. An album like this will always succeed because the songs are well-hewn.