It’s an often told tale that young Gregory Page, having no interest in academics or a future in business, developed a fascination with his grandfather’s 78 rpm records. It’s a quirky tidbit, hardly worth the mention for the more conventional lives of lawyers, clerks, and cashiers, but it merits attention in discussing the intriguing Mr. Page. No mere rocker or folkie savant, he’s an agile channeler of music styles gone by. Jazz ballads, torch songs, gospel-tinged testimonials, elements of folk and such things, Page is a man of constant dreaming, yearning, pining for the better day, one who succinctly expresses the perceived failures of his romantic expectations with a sense of irony and wit. So It Goes, his newest release, is a rich and textured set of original songs by Page, each song radiating a soft focused nostalgia, the softly curving turns of Page’s melodies framing his supple voice that reveal his capacity as an expressive singer. He is a crooner in the great tradition of vocalists who perform their songs not so much as professional renditions of harmony and lyric, but rather as a short drama, an inspired short story .
The aspect of Page’s singing that grabs me is the way he varies his emphasis, line by line, never losing the golden tone but seeming to sense how a change how a line is sounded, waxing poetic with a quivering warble on one image and then undercutting his own regret with an ironic aside by lightening his approach, lifting his voice up to an optimistic pitch. It is, over and over, Page’s theme that we’re wedded to the past and cannot forget who and what we have loved and lost, but those memories cannot be allowed to turn us into bitter and grouchy lay-abouts.
More than once he declares the fundamental lesson, that our experiences make us who we are and that there is nothing to do but go on and embrace the life that unfolds in front of us. He is, of course, and speaking for himself and his own farcified recollections and insights, but the songwriter-songwriter is so adept at his craft and presentation that there isn’t a hint of self pity. Page is a fatalist, perhaps, but he is not a defeatist. The album’s title, So It Goes ,is a refrain from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse 5, repeated at various points when the story’s events undermine the vain philosophies of the protagonists; despite plans and preparation, life itself upsets one’s agenda and puts one in a position to reflect and rethink and create a reason to get back in the game. CD release at Java Joe’s on June 3.