Ron E. Rawhoof is an original singer songwriter who grew to musical maturity in Rockford, Illinois, a sprawling city with a storied industrial past, snug in the middle of three great Midwestern musical lights: Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. His music radiates this geography, blending as it does elements of traditional folk, finger-style blues, and confessional narrative. Rawhoof’s songs bring into conversation the voices of traditional narrative folk—a line traceable from Dan Fogelberg, to James Taylor and Jackson Browne—and more contemporary improvisational folk artists such as Kelly Joe Phelps and Peter Mulvey. Arresting listeners with his smooth-as-butter guitar work and impeccable timing and delivery, Rawhoof wins over audiences with good-humored charm, a winking self-effacement refreshing to those weary of the self-possession (obsession) so indicative of contemporary solo performers.
Rawhoof incorporates into his song melodies signature licks out of New-Orleans Jazz and traditional folk, adding a vocal delivery that manages to suggest the wizened throatiness of John Hiatt, and perhaps even Leonard Cohen, but keeps from straining those references with a gentle, self-aware quality reminiscent of Fogelberg and James Taylor. His songs—which one suspects could be, and perhaps shall one way or another be sung forever—tell unpretentious stories. They are at turns painfully sad, poignant, racy and funny, and sometimes bittersweet. Collectively, Rawhoof’s songs reach out to a range of moods found in any full human life; individually, his songs coax listeners inward, to places only they know to go.
Representative Rawhoof originals such as “Build my Boat,” “So Children Play,” and “Auf Weidersehen” nominate themselves for consideration as American standards; certainly no less deserving of that consideration than other certified representatives in the American grain, incanting the ghost of Stephen Collins Foster. Lyrically, at turns, Rawhoof spins delightful word-plays:
-“I scatter what I gather ‘round” (“Auf Wiedersehen”);
-“let me tell you a story ‘bout a woman she’s finer than porcelain china” (“Little Treva”);
hits you in the gut with tear-inducing testimonials:
-“dreams are just a lazy way of thinking” (“Build my Boat”);
-“with calloused hands we build our lives, carve our way with a steady knife…we turn to them and say, as we send them on their way, life is harder every day, so children play…” (“So Children Play”)
-“Sweet Eileen you know I wrote these words for you…but I’m afraid that you don’t feel the same as me…maybe some day you can roll me to the sea, under a clear blue sky—the grass—you and me, sweet Eileen” (“Sweet Eileen”)
then puts his arm playfully round your shoulders encouraging plain old good time beer-tossing fun:
-“got a spark in my heart and I’m gonna start a fire tonight” (“Little Treva”)
Ron Rawhoof deserves recognition as a genuinely American artist. Producing songs capturing the playful whimsy and admitted pain of any average American life is no mean feat on a good day; this collection of songs is cause for celebration since it ensures that we have them near our reach for all of the days to come.
-Matthew Caleb Flamm