Music » Critics' Picks

John Gorka

Saturday, October 16; Off Broadway


Back in the salad days of the early-'90s New England folk revival, before the six-string self-righteous babes, chicken soup for the bank account and angels invoked at every coffee house, John Gorka had it. And what he had was a haunting baritone and songs that drew a stiletto-straight line between loneliness and some personal apotheosis. 1990's Land of the Bottom Line remains Gorka's best record: He'd yet to go off the Adult Contemporary shallow end (in 1993, the somewhat treacly "When She Kisses Me" made a minor soft-country radio splash), and he'd yet to exhaust his private metaphors. "I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair" painted him as a convincing, if slightly disturbing, obsessive compulsive, and the title track didn't need to put on working-class airs to grasp the heart of spiritual and economic deprivation. His most recent album, Old Futures Gone, recaptures his cagey, lyrical wisdom, at least when he's not comparing his own problems to a soldier's life or the neo-cons' divide-and-conquer strategy. As problematic as his sociopolitical similes may be, they at least flash imagination, which is more than you'd say for "War Makes War" (it won't bring peace, etc., and was more catchy in a Martin Luther King Jr. oration). Still, Gorka rarely plays St. Louis, and at the intimate Off Broadway his lyrical grit and sneaky humor should be captivating.