Hit The Truth
“Hit the Truth” also features material from the mid’70s in mostly spare arrangements; a trio of Aleta Greene showcases and much fine harmony; five David Franks lyrics; and a variety of producers---George Massenburg again, Mark Greenhouse, Bob himself, and Steuart Smith, renowned as a guitarist and keyboardist in Washington and Nashville decades before he earned accolades for producing albums by Shawn Colvin, Terri Clark and Rodney Crowell, and 25 years before he started soaring as guitarist with the Eagles.
The title track, with Bob on piano and Michael Meros onRhodes, has a Jackson Browne lilt as the possibly desperate singer, giddy with a fresh romance, opts for the immediate moment, not the inevitable consequence: “I’ve been down so long now, I’m singing this song and I’m ready to take a chance….Won’t you lie to me momma? We’ll hit the truth some other night…” (Been there….)
What comes next may be one of Bob’s most beautiful songs, and certainly one of his and Aleta’s finest performances. “The Time We Spend” is an aftermath song, the shadow of parting sorrow palpable from start to end in the shimmering keyboards. The regrets and second thoughts of the verses peak in a gorgeously soaring chorus in which Bob and Aleta’s voices envelop each other as a way of staving off the anguish and torment of love’s end:
“You say you're waiting for the end to come/ Never wanted to begin/ But it looks like we've already begun/ So let's be happy for the things we have, so let's be thankful for the time/ for the time we spend together is the time we call our home.”
“No Refunds for the Rain,” the Franks-penned title track of the third volume of previously unreleased songs, here gets a slightly more muscular up tempo reading from Aleta, while a mournful, melancholy “Lover’s Lullaby” addresses the pull between the need to leave a lover and the desire to remain, even when it’s clearly over.
“Smilin’ Through” is something an anomaly: one could easily imagine it as a bubblegum hit for the Monkees, the Cowsills, even the Archies! It’s bright and bouncy (thanks to pianist Bill Payne of Little Feat and drummer Jeff Porcaro of Toto) and charmingly upbeat, with a chorus that begs for singalongs: “Feels like love can last forever/ because we know our love is true/ We are high and filled with laughter/ as you keep smiling through.” Somebody should have had a Top 40 hit with this 40 years ago!
The mood returns to reflective sorrow with the languid, elegiac “Can I Dream of You Tonight,” with Steuart Smith particularly sympathetic in his subtly-understated electric guitar fills. Mark Greenhouse’s production transforms the song into a prayer.
Aleta is featured on the Billy Joel-style pop strains of “Wasting My Time,” charting the anxiety-filled ups and downs of romance while still wanting one more chance: “But will we see us on through/ to the love we once had/and the love that we could have once again.” One thing about Bob’s love songs: he gets knocked down but he gets up again….
Aleta is also front and center on the Franks-penned “Easy to Begin,” which explores the notion that love’s first blooming is always hopeful, “easier still when you’re very young/ to believe that love has just begun and when you fall that a dawning light will wash away the shadows of the past/ That confusion pain and sacrifice will fade before one roll of dice and having taken just one chance you’ll win.”
Another Franks lyric graces “Lover and a Friend,” which explores a common experience that, surprisingly, is seldom written about though the despondence it entails is universal. Simply put—convincingly so by Bob--- “you know it’s hard to be a lover and then a friend.”
“It Takes the World to Make a Feather Fall,” with lyrics credits shared between Bob and David Franks, is reprised from Bob’s first Stormy Forest album, here effectively recast as a spare duet.
”Dawning Light” is Paul Simon-esque in the inspirational, anthemic manner of “The Boxer,” but more personal and decidedly more optimistic in its lessons learned on a journey through America.
The closing track, the Franks-penned “Metal Rose,” is something of a mystery folk ballad, deftly wrought and graced with gentle layers of harmonies by Bob and Mark Greenhouse.
— Notes by Richard Harrington wrote for the Washington Post from 1980‑2008. His thousands of stories and interviews include pieces on a diversity of artists including U2, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Jay‑Z, Tim McGraw, Dolly Parton, James Brown, David Bowie, Miles Davis and others.