Al Libby - Fully Empire

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Posted on 27th July 2012

Al Libby

Fully Empire cd


Here is an unusual one in many respects. First, Al Libby is a singer-songwriter that I have long liked, even though he rarely plays and is entirely local. I've seen him opening in small gigs and at open mic nights — not exactly The Big Time. But he always struck me as unusual in those contexts. He, first of all, is not a folk singer, which makes him stand out at open mics. Sure, he stands up there with an acoustic guitar and sings songs he has written, but, boy, they don't have folk roots. This I regard as a Good Thing.

He now has an album. It is on Soundcloud ( It is called Fully Empire and has ten songs including the 23-second intro, Welcome.

After downloading Fully Empire into iTunes and playing it like an album, my opinion of Al remains pretty much the same: he is interesting and has the head of a real artist. Though Fully Empire is pretty much just Al – there are a few odd noises here and there that might be someone else, might be him – and he is not a virtuoso guitarist, nevertheless the album has a strong identity, a unique sense of songcraft, some really bizarre lyrics, with a lot suggested, left to your imagination.

It plays not like a folk or Americana or sensitive singer-songwriter album, but like an intelligent pop/rock album. Sometimes his tunes sound uncannily like early Peter Townshend (Dressed Like A Deacon), sometimes maybe like Jethro Tull, maybe Syd Barrett, even solo-era John Lennon and so on, including probably some newer influences I can't think of. And, did I say, his lyrics are surreal and intriguing. I'd like to see a lyric sheet.

Mostly, Fully Empire is not banal, imitative, derivative or formulaic. And that, believe me, is a rare thing.

What it does sound like is a demo. You could not say it is well-recorded, tightly played or fantastically arranged. It does suggest these things, though, in the way a demo does. It's kind of nice to listen to something that is not perfect, even if I'd generally like to hear the voice a bit higher in the mix. But I'll take creativity over musicianship any day, and Al is first to the post on that one. Check it out; it's free! Then wait for Al to get a band... Oh, don't bother, just go see him if you see his name.

Charley Dunlap

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