Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald

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Sydney Morning Herald

Behind The Humour Lurks A Musical Master

The next time Roy Book Binder comes to town, the word should have spread about this entertaining hybrid of folklorist, comedian, blues singer, storyteller and virtuoso guitar picker.

A devotee of the rural blues of pre-World War II America, he tracked down such aged progenitors as Rev. Gary Davis and Pink Anderson, learning their songs, internalizing the style and writing his own material. 30 years on the road later, if there is a vague sense of someone acting a part - with homburg hat, Merv Hughes moustache, braces, little round glasses and ancient acoustic guitar - it is overshadowed by a deeper sense of pupil having become master.

Immediately captivating was his sly, dry, self-deprecating humor: "I'd like to do one for my first wife, may she rest in peace...with her new husband." The second and third wives figured subsequently, as did his current relationship. Divorce being good for songwriting, and more material being required for his next album, "she's nervous".

The between-song chat was as much the show as the songs themselves. Book Binder spun anecdotal yarns that carried the sheen of the tall story surrounded by the ring of truth. The overlap with his current album, Live book... Don't Start Me Talkin', shows that the yarns are recycled without losing spontaneity.

He is also the only performer I have seen who could make a virtue out of forgetting the words to a song. Thanks to the intimacy of the Basement, his raised eyebrows and a blank expression were worth a screed of lyrics.

Unlike most virtuosos, Book Binder seemed at pains to deflect attention from his accomplishment, as though it were just the noise he makes in between being funny.

The elasticity of the timing of both his rasping vocal--delivery and guitar accompaniment was extraordinarily sophisticated. Some of the words were chewed over like a tobacco plug, to be eventually spat out in jolting syncopation.

- John Shand (Sydney Morning Herald)