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george usher: review

Limewire

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

East Coast power-pop’s secret superman, George Usher has been on the scene for twice as long as the aforementioned Apples, but it’s still not too late to get in on his cult-status phase. Since the ’80s, Usher has worked with Beat Rodeo, The Bongos, The Schramms, and others, but he’s been turning out perfect-pop solo albums since the mid-’90s, and his latest is as full of winsome tunecraft, heavenly harmonies, and help-it’s-stuck-in-my-earlobe hooks as savvy camp followers would expect.

Bucketfull Of Brains

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

It’s nigh on thirty years since George Usher sat down one morning and wrote “Not The Tremblin’ Kind”, and it’s extraordinary that even today this exceptional songwriter is known mainly for composing that song, great as it undoubtedly is. In the interim, he’s done time in august bands like the Schramms, the Bongos, and Beat Rodeo; more recently co-writing and co-producing Ed Rogers’ superb “You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been”, and over the years, delivering a whole series of splendid, under-appreciated solo albums.

Yours And Not Yours is, put simply, another masterpiece. It’s an exquisite collection with hints of country but predominantly chamber pop of an unsurpassed quality. Usher’s voice, timbred and textured surely, but ultimately pure, is framed by strings, horn, piano and pedal steel. The last, exceptional on “Unforgivable Sin,” comes courtesy of Jon Graboff. All marvelously constructed songs and almost entirely songs of lost love. This could be seen as a cycle and throughout titles and lines arrest; he’s a wordsmith of fascination.

From the opening, string-swathed “Somewhere North Of The Sky,” co-written with Rogers, this is a tapestry whose motif is an intriguing melancholy. That it doesn’t overwhelm the listener in sympathetic sorrow is a tribute to its variety, and to the subtlety of Usher’s voice. Just take, for example, the way he appears to sing “comedy of airs” in “Comedy Of Errors”. There are moments like that throughout; the 12-string sounding like a harpsichord on “Love By Any Other Name,” and the horn at the start of “I Would Have Done Anything.” Moments to savour, and moments that combine to make this record, very, very special.- Nick West

All Music Guide

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

Between his work with Beat Rodeo, the Schramms, the Bongos, the Health & Happiness Show, and Edward Rogers, George Usher has a résumé that would raise the eyebrows of most fans of roots rock or contemporary power pop, but he’s chosen to turn his talents in a decidedly different direction on his fifth solo album, Yours and Not Yours. This set is a collection of subdued chamber pop tunes, most accompanied by a small acoustic ensemble or a string section, and the tone is gently downbeat, with Usher’s songs dominated by tales of relationships that have broken down or choices that didn’t work out. There is a hopeful side to the opener, “Somewhere North of the Sky,” and a sly air of mischief in the kiss-off number “Where Is Your Guardian Angel?,” but even on those songs the mood is more wistful than joyous, and Usher’s vocals (which recall a mellower and pensive Matthew Sweet) glide over the waves of gentle sadness like a sailboat over a smooth lake. The arrangements match the material beautifully, from the high lonesome pedal steel on “It Never Happened” and “Unforgivable Sin” to the muted trumpet, cello, and piano that circle one another on “Comedy of Errors,” and while the tone of these songs is consistent, Usher manages to give each a vocal reading that sets it apart; the overall theme of this album is “Love Hurts,” but he’s able to identify a rich variety of aches brought on by a broken heart. And lyrically, for all the romantic failures on display, Usher’s stories are told with a keen eye for human behavior and an eloquent gift for wordplay. Yours and Not Yours would probably be a bad choice for a party on Saturday night, but if you’re looking for mood music for a rainy autumn afternoon, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than this study of love among the ruins.- Mark Deming

The Big Takeover 2nd Review

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

Usher gets around: Decoys, Beat Rodeo, Schramms, Bongos, House Of Usher, and more. That list gives an idea of the ingredients here: tuneful pop, twangy Americana, ornate arrangements (tons of guitars, piano and organ, plus pedal steel, cello and violin, even horn.) He crams all that together on some tracks, and most of it on most tracks, and it fits together quite naturally. Vocally, Usher is like a sweeter, more quavery Matthew Sweet. The result is-and I know this sounds like a contradiction- mellow power-pop, or a sort of more mature and idealized ‘70s rock. The lyrics tend toward bittersweet nostalgia, which matches the music well.-Steve Holtje

City Beat

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

For years, George Usher has been a utility guitarist for any number of New York Pop bands, including Beat Rodeo, The Bongos and The Schramms, while maintaining one of the most consistently cool solo careers in Indie music, both alone and with his bands (The Decoys, The House of Usher, The George Usher Group).
In recent years, debilitating health issues have kept Usher from his musical pursuits and he’s just now getting back to his previous creative form. Usher’s new album, Yours and Not Yours, his first in over a decade, finds the gifted Pop singer/songwriter channeling his impulses in a decidedly acoustic direction, filling out his moving Folk Pop tunes with Baroque Pop ornamentation like cello, chamber strings and horns. “Love By Any Other Name” could be a lost Paul McCartney track from the Revolver/Rubber Soul era, “Somewhere North of the Sky” and “The Stranger Came” exhibit the same kind of exuberant melancholy that Michael Penn has perfected and “Jericho’s Mistress” shimmers and sighs with a charged Psych Folk atmosphere. Meanwhile, “I Would Have Done Anything For You” finds Usher accessing his inner Burt Bacharach and “Unforgivable Sin” could have been a hit for The Everly Brothers four decades ago. Although Usher’s electric Power Pop output has been typically unbeatable, his acoustic Folk songcraft on Yours and Not Yours easily ranks with his most accomplished and impressive.- Brian Baker

Burning Wood

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

Beautifully crafted and relentlessly hook-filled pop, from Cleveland born, NYC based, singer-songwriter, George Usher.- Sal Nunziato

The Big Takeover

George Usher

Yours And Not Yours (Parasol)

Singer/songwriter GEORGE USHER has quite a NYC underground pop pedigree, boasting stints in BEAT RODEO and the SCHRAMMS and long associations with RICHARD BARONE and current power pop darling EDWARD ROGERS. He does have a small catalog of solo albums, though, of which Yours and Not Yours is the fourth. Though Usher’s prior experience might lead you to believe this is a jangle pop record, it’s not. Instead, lush, gentle tunes like Love By Any Other Name,_the pedal steel-laced _Unforgivable Sin and the strings ‘n’ piano-drenched Just a Story have more in common with the baroque pop of the LEFT BANKE and its plush, folky cousins from the late 60s and 70s. This means that Yours and Not Yours demands a certain attentive focus in order to appreciate Usher’s craft and charm; put this on in a busy office as background noise and you’re likely to dismiss it as soft rock pap. Which would, frankly, be a mistake – Usher’s graceful melodies and emotional depth softly caress the ears and heart alike if you give ‘em a chance.

Blurt Magazine

George Usher

Yours and Not Yours (Parasol)

Although perhaps best known for penning Laura Cantrell’s “Not the Tremblin’ Kind”, songwriter George Usher has been in and out of bands since the 1970s, fronting the Decoys, the House of Usher and the George Usher band and sitting in with Beat Rodeo, the Schramms and the Bongos. A songwriter’s songwriter, he has written for Amy Rigby and Richard Barone and, for two albums, worked alongside Edward Rogers of the Bedsit Poets.
His latest, Yours and Not Yours, is a collection of warm, well-crafted and understated country pop songs, carried by Usher’s tremulous tenor and embellished with close harmonies, strings and pedal steel. All 12 songs consider relationships — mostly from the downhill slope – and there is a quaver embedded in melodies as Usher considers the sadness of broken love. Yet though the subject matter is weighty, Usher’s voice flutters effortlessly, making octave length leaps with a casual ease and spinning righteous pop choruses into bittersweet overload. Once or twice, elaborate orchestrations threaten to capsize delicate tunes, as in the syrupy piano-violin-brass introduction to “Comedy of Errors,” yet for the most part, the songs themselves predominate. “Somewhere North of the Sky” exactly balances emotional rawness with melodic skill, it’s “Love is always waiting” chorus uplifting but not never saccharine. “The Strangest Game” pits gentle picking against billowing Byrdsian harmonies, and pedal-steel twanging “It Never Happened” couches thousand-yard-stare rejection in the sweetest possible country melancholy.
Yours and Not Yours is a hidden gem for anyone who values quality songwriting.

Yeah Yeah Yeah

Edward Rogers

Sunday Fables (Not Lame)

This display of unerringly jangle-folk rock is a project that has Rogers co-writing all of Sunday Fables’ tunes with fellow NY-scene-ster George Usher (the Bongos, The Schramms) and is song-after-song of dreamy, sunny and sublimely warm music. There are touches of The Byrds, Burt Bacharach, and Pernice Brothers (lots) scattered liberally throughout but this project is original in its own space. Some of the most haunting, evocative lyrics paired w/subtle orchestral-like pop arrangements and Roger`s reedy, breathy powerful vocals fill all available space.

An ambitious solo debut from the prodigiously talented Mr. Rogers…Sunday Fables is loaded with Rickenbacker-drenched pop goodies, all of which were written by Rogers with ex-Schramm and occasional Bongo George Usher. Peppy pop tunes like “In The Garden Of Who You Were” and “Who Knew The World Would End?” are balanced by wistful ballads like “Germantown.” As if to prove that all the right points of reference are in effect, The Church`s Marty Willson-Piper plays lead guitar on two tracks, and Zombies frontman Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent lend vocals on a track as well. Grand. -YeahYeahYeah.

Fufkin.com

Edward Rogers

Sunday Fables (Not Lame)

Lives up to Not Lame Recordings high standards for indie pop. Rogers is joined in the studio by a talented cast that includes NYC pal, George Usher and noted guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper (on two tracks). Jangly music enthusiasts will definitely dig “In The Garden Of Who You Were” and the ringing guitars on “Innocent Times” and “Laughing Ghost” will also satiate their listening desires. Not surprisingly, the entire album has the feel of a George Usher Group album and some Todd Rundgren references as well. Sunday Fables will stand the test of time, and it will get pulled off my music shelf for years to come. -Fufkin.com

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