Deep into a career as both bandleader and solo artist, Michael Tarbox is still making music that’s urgent, rough-hewn and direct.
From the start it was clear that his songs are something special. They have some of the spiritual yearning you hear in old recordings of rural gospel groups, and some of the lost, lonesome sound of Appalachian songs as well. Like old folk tales, they seem rooted in ancient shared experience. And, like the songs of Hank Williams or Billie Holiday, they have a lived-in quality that’s characteristic of the best American roots music.
Most importantly, though, Tarbox’s music conveys a deeply personal emotional landscape in a distinctive voice. Tough, lyrical and knowing, Tarbox’s hard-won perspective gives his work an immediacy that sets it apart. His guitar playing, sharp as Texas barbed-wire, brings it all together.
From the primal blues of “Honey Babe” to the meditations of “A Fix Back East” and the luminous “Whose Fault But Mine,” Tarbox surfs effortlessly from the stark to the sublime. Listen to his lyrics and you’ll hear fully formed poems, some full of warmth and charm, others haunted and lonesome. But whatever the song, Tarbox transports you to another world the moment you hear his voice.
Acoustic or electric, solo or with his band, The Tarbox Ramblers, Tarbox remains an ambitious writer whose work draws from the deepest, darkest and most universal undercurrents of American music. It’s a fascinating journey, and it makes you wonder what lies ahead for this restless, talented artist.
Tarbox has released two albums with The Tarbox Ramblers, on Rounder, and two independent solo albums. His most recent release is “Works and Days.”
“Homemade rock ‘n’ roll with a dose of rattlesnake venom and gospel-drenched howling.” — Meredith Ochs, All Things Considered
“At the heart of Tarbox’s music is his guitar, as raw as it is charismatic. It creates an electricity that courses through every song.” –– Mayer Danzig, Twangville.com
“Between the fiddle, string bass, drums and slide guitar, you won’t know what hit you.” –- The New Yorker
“Beautiful textures that are drenched in sepia-toned images, and black and white newsreels from the focal point of the ravaged human heart.” –– Thom Jurek, AllMusic
“Grimy, thrilling noise” — Mother Jones
“The most evocative and distinctive blues-roots artist to come down the pike in ages.” — Calgary Sun
“Tarbox is a chillingly precise lyricist” –– Jim Fusili, The Wall Street Journal
“A must for those interested in the continuation of traditional music into the present and perhaps a glimpse into the music’s future.” — The Onion