Rick Callender, known in certain circles as Bink, is the mainstay at local coffee houses. Of the few times I ventured out with my accordion, intent on subjecting hapless caffeine-addicts to my droning wail, Rick was there with his guitar in tow. His debut release was 1998s Undone, a full band venture that fleshed out the ideas of his solo performances. But it is with Spark, the long awaited follow up, that captures the intimacy and spirit of Rick's many solo performances. Recorded live at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, these eight original songs contain Callender's trademark lyrical style: a painfully honest and emotional view of life tempered with a wry edge. With only sparse instrumentation of a single acoustic guitar to accompany his voice, all distractions are stripped away (if you discount the only sometimes distracting footsteps and discussions on pockets that drift past), leaving the listener alone to confront the lyrics. Both Lemonade and the haunting Silver deal with the struggles of daily life, the "condition of being human in a human world." In Wolf, Callender confronts the delicate issue of fighting fibromyalgia, using this powerful hunter as an analogy for the effects of this disease. The meandering, unconventional song structures that Rick tends to favor are wholly evident in "Heart And Soul" where he addresses relationships, opening with "I was thinking of cutting my hair again / But I think I'll just stay with the way that I am / 'Cause the length of my hair won't / Change how you fare with me." On "Woodbine", Callender proves that he's a more than capable guitarist and later reinforces this fact with the celtic "A Prayer for Broken Wings." If you've managed to see Rick Callender perform, you know the kind of magic his songs can weave, an effect that is not lost on this CD. This live recording captures this energy in its purest form, allowing the listener to mull over these striking, heartfelt, emotional lyrics at their leisure. Be sure to stop by Toast & Jam Coffeehouse on December 13 for the CD release party and to hear these songs performed live in their natural environment.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, December 2001.