The mid-90s was a good time for folk, bluegrass, and country in San Francisco, but for my money it didn’t get any better than Turpentine.
I got enough for some beer if you cover the gas
Put your bag in the trunk and meet me back here
In about an hour and a half
And we don’t have to talk, the radio is fine
You sure had us all pretty scared this time
Turpentine – All Your Promises from All Your Promises
Brian Belknap’s songs weren’t nostalgic recreations of the folk of the past, but honest, unromanticized visions of contemporary working-class life, the bitter and the sweet.
We used to laugh together
Shit, I thought them days would last forever
Turpentine – Saturday Night from Turpentine
And long after you sold your car with the tape deck and could no longer listen to their cassettes, the songs stuck with you. Like this one, maybe the best union song since the 70s:
Foreman should have had the brake locked
And the wheels chocked
Like he said he did
Turpentine – Keep It On Your Mind from Turpentine
Honest to God, I’d put these songs up against anybody’s.
Backed by the bass of Keith Challberg and the guitar & crush-inducing backing vocals of Sue Sandlin (now of the Stairwell Sisters), Turpentine was the whole blessed package.
I heard that lightning never strikes twice
Flame that burns longest is never as bright
Hey, let’s get loaded and give it a try
Turpentine – Read ’Em And Weep from Dirty Water
I chose the songs I posted because they’re current favorites, but there are 18 songs on those three albums, and I give you the HV No-Clunker Guarantee.
Brian’s been kind enough to allow me to post the Turpentine albums for download (ripped from cassette — thanks Crazyfoot!), so snap em up before some label gets wise:
Turpentine – Turpentine (1994)
Turpentine – Dirty Water (1995)
All three albums (109MB)
Brian Belknap is back after a 10-year performing hiatus with new songs and an album, Lucky Me, that features those songs alongside Turpentine recordings. Lucky Me is available at CD Baby.
Oh, the anger
In this attic rafter room
8×6 ¾ plywood floor
With no good place to fall
Brian Belknap – Can’t Come Over from Lucky Me
You can catch Belknap & band at the Velo Rouge Cafe on Saturday, May 15, 7PM. Two sets, no excuses, pepples. See you there.