I listened to Buddy Tabor's 2004 album, "Edge of Despair (A Children's Album)" a few too many times in a row one gloomy night last February, so I was careful to listen to his new record at least 30 feet away from any window ledges or sharp drop-offs.
I expected songs about tortured orphans, their last few hours filled with interminable pain. Sick kittens, howling with worms. Meth-addled single mothers working at Taco Bell.
As it is, I had nothing to fear. Sure, the meth-addled single mothers make a return, this time applying at Wal-Mart. But "Hope: The First Step Toward Disillusionment," Tabor's eighth full release, is relatively cheery. That is, unless it's really intended to chronicle that moment of optimism before the other shoe drops. In that case, it works as one of the most relentlessly crushing mind-teases in recent memory.
Tabor will play songs from "Hope" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at McPhetres Hall, near Fourth and Gold streets. Albert McDonnell, John Hartle, John Unzicker and Michael Truax will sit in, while Collette Costa will emcee. Admission is $10.
Anyone who's seen Tabor play in the last year and a half will recognize the eighth track, "Jesus Loves Me More Than He Loves You," the live favorite with the sad parable. The narrator, righteous and blessed, casts his eyes down on the less fortunate:
"I know it's cold sleeping in your car/You really are to blame for where you are... And the reason why you ain't got no food/Is because Jesus love me more than he loves you."
"Hope" starts wistfully too, but at least on a somewhat romantic bent, with the fine track "Wait for Me." Track two, an ode to Louisiana women with golden brown hair like "hot pepper sauce," is saccharine, as is "See the Young Girl Dance," a song about an old man staring sadly across the floor.
The storytelling is great as usual, especially on the sagebrush-canyon-inspired 12th track and the third song, a paean to the citizens of a colonial power gone horribly overboard:
"Down here on Earth/We're stars of fragmented light/Caught in the crossfire of what's wrong and right."
As usual, Tabor includes room for Hartle to play his mandolin and McDonnell to add his contributions. There's also another Johnny Cash cover, this time "Ring of Fire."
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.