Artist: John Gorka
Album: True in Time
Label: Red House Records
Release Date: 1.19.18
John Gorka has always been able to spin a good yarn. On his latest album, True in Time, the veteran singer/songwriter lets his imagination run wild in “The Ballad of Iris & Pearl,” as he dreams up musical adventures for labelmate Eliza Gilkyson’s dogs. It’s essentially a Disney movie set to song.
It’s hard to say if that’s what Gorka was going for, although he’s never been big on ostentatious, theatrical productions. Treading lightly, as usual, True in Time is a quiet, lithe and artfully rendered blend of folk and Americana that seems determined not to get in Gorka’s way. Spare instrumentation frames the title track and “Crowded Heart”—an honest self-assessment seeking emotional rescue, like the similarly cast “Cry for Help,” with its delicate fingerpicking—as gentle support for Gorka’s intimate lyrical meditations. And while the softly brushed and lovingly painted “Arroyo Seco,” with its beautiful, flowing piano, and “Tattooed” seem as open and lonesome as desert highways, “Mennonite Girl” assumes a simple, accessible melodic shape in pining for lost love. The studios won’t be lining to buy the film rights to any of them, even though they probably should.
Old friends thought to be lost, “Blues with a Rising Sun” and “Red Eye & Roses,” show up on True in Time—the latter a likeable, engaging song about cowboys and drinking. Fans recovered recordings of both for Gorka, as he also lets in a light, shuffling version of the silly fan favorite “The Body Parts Medley” that’s a delightful comedy in an otherwise openhearted, tender record full of humanity and wounds. When Gorka picks up the pace and sets sweet, unassuming hooks in the gauzy country tones of “Nazarene Guitar,” that’s when he really ropes you in. His songs stand the test of time.