I would imagine that many of my readers know that Trout Fishing in America is one the finest kid’s music acts you will ever hear. But their new album is Lookin’ at Lucky, and it is their first album for grownups in a dozen years. To make their kid’s music, Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet must think like kids. The music must have a strong rhythmic sense, and be fairly straightforward. The words need to have a fine feel for what is important to kids, and there must be warmth and good humor. Scolding and, more broadly, anger, must be suppressed. And Trout Fishing does all of this beautifully, and makes music that also appeals to parents. So what happens when these skills are applied to music intended for those parents and other grownups?
The music here retains that strong sense of rhythm, but the structures loosen up a little at times. There is the occasional guitar solo here, although there is no threat to Eric Clapton. Trout has always featured mainly acoustic instruments, but here they plug in a little more often. And there are a few bluesy numbers, which probably wouldn’t happen in their kid’s music. The warmth and good humor carry over, but the subjects change. On Lookin’ at Lucky, there are a couple of hurting songs, with even some anger in them. Subtlety is perhaps the one quality that makes the hardest transition here, but even that is here on a couple of songs.
Lookin’ at Lucky, the song, is the opening track, and it draws the listener in with its beat. The song is an expression of the exuberance of a new love, and it works beautifully. Then comes She’s the Only Smile. This is one of the subtle songs. It begins with a narrator admiring a woman who is the only one smiling on a dance floor. Somewhere as you go along, you find that the narrator has joined her on the floor, and now there are two smiles out there. There was a third one on my face as I listened. Later there is the song Home, a ballad that expresses love beautifully.
So far, there is nothing new here. The emotions here have all been expressed before, and the lyrics are not extraordinary. But they are delivered with warmth and honesty, and that keeps you listening. Who Knows What We Might Do is another matter. This is a song about adults not “acting their age”, and Keith and Ezra don’t see this as a problem. Not Every Dream may be the most personal song on the album, This one describes love as something delicate and precious, and it has a suitably delicate arrangement, with a great fiddle part by Jenee Fleenor. I mentioned that there are bluesy grooves on the album, and I Pretend to Understand is my favorite of these. The lyric looks at a coping mechanism that may not be the best idea, Who knows what this narrator may have agreed to? This strikes me as another example of a song that only Keith and Ezra could have written. The Car’s Running and My Baby Loves Sudoku are two songs where Trout’s sense of humor comes out; both songs feel kind of like their kid’s songs, but address subjects that only apply to adults.
My wife and I were very happy many years ago when we found the music of Trout Fishing in America. It gave us something that first my daughter and now my son would ask for that we also enjoyed. I’m very happy to know that Keith and Ezra also make fine music just for us. To be honest though, I suspect that the kids will enjoy it too, and there’s nothing here I wouldn’t be comfortable playing with them present.
Trout Fishing in America: Not Every Dream
Trout Fishing in America: I Pretend to Understand