Purple Pants (JTA)
Judah Thornewill

By Paul Moffett

"Purple Pants" is "The Cat Came Back" on acid.

We're talking edgy, intense, Harry Chapin with a chorally trained voice, Croce without the cigar and playing a classical guitar, Cat Stevens with a Christian spin in his images rather than Islamic. But not "after;" influenced.

The songs are tightly written, the arrangements suitable, the studio recording good, the singing and playing professional. No superstitious person is Judah Thornewill: there are thirteen songs.

The afore-mentioned "Purple Pants" seems to be the stand-out tune, according to Thornewill's marketing study. (British-born, now Louisvillian Thornewill is a marketing person in his day job.) The tune concerns a pair of purple pants which can't be gotten rid of, even though they're seriously interfering with the singer's life.

"Hill Street" is another bit of introspective intensity, as is "Patchwork Man," which has a melody that sticks in the memory.

"C93" is a novelty tune that, while well-written and mildly amusing the first time, quickly lost its luster and ability to amuse after six or seven spins. Technohumor ages entirely too rapidly to enshrine on glass.

Thornewill's classical guitar and choral vocal training are plain to hear. Not as easily explained is his precise diction: Thornewill says that's how his English family spoke and thought everyone should speak and so he did. He also sings that way. Most of the times, it works, giving the material just that additional edginess for the precision.

Consider this line from "Purple Pants," after the pants had come between him and a woman he wanted: "She said 'To hell with you, man' and she left me.". Reads like nothing on paper but to listen to Thornewill's take on it and see how clear diction intensifies the message of a line.

On the bluesy "Slow Dance," however, that crispness just isn't the thing and it interferes just that little bit with what is otherwise a good tune. Imagine singing "Crossroads" perfectly clearly.

By all measures, this is an excellent CD, and well worth a listen, particularly if you are a fan of Chapin, Croce or Stevens.