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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rob Morsberger - A Gesture And A Word

Rob Morsberger - A Gesture and a Word
2013, Hieroglyph Records
Reviews should rarely be written about anything other than the music, but an artist’s story can be compelling outside of the music.  To that end, Rob Morsberger’s battle with Stage 4 Gioblastoma has been well-documented.  Over time, so has his prodigy as a songwriter.  What is perhaps overlooked is the way in which Morsberger has chosen to live the last two years of his life.  With extraordinary courage and joy, Morsberger has tended to his family, his friendships and his music as the most precious gifts life has to offer.  This understanding is the basis for Morsberger’s final album, A Gesture and a Word.

The album opens with "Mystic Redemption", a sort of post-reality daydream of Heaven, where the holy and the mundane blend in images and memories of youth in an incredibly moving reflection on coming home.  Morsberger's cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" is haunting. Each verse kicks off with dissonant piano accompaniment, but resolves slowly to the chorus as the singer finds hope in the moment. The parallels between this rendition and Morsberger's own journey are stark and clear.  "Margot" was written for a young cancer survivor by Morsberger as part of a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and finds a singular sense of joy expressed in a Beatles-esque piano arrangement that gets stuck in your brain. This is perhaps one of the finest pop songs Morsberger has written over the course of his career. Against this backdrop falls the existential loneliness of "Falling", a rumination on the sense of loss in facing a life cut short.

Just as quickly he transitions back to hope and self-determination with "The Hero of Your Life". Morsberger implores listeners to not wait for a hero, but to go out and make the most of their lives. There's no self-pity here, just a pragmatic sense of what can be.   It's a beautiful moment in song with anthem like qualities.  "Count on You" sounds at first like an expression of insecurity, but holds a much deeper grace. It is the expression of need to a loved one thy is full of love and respect. Morsberger captures the pain and beauty of one of the most difficult life transitions here.

"Studio Lane" is a living still life and a tribute to the family dog. The simple joys of boyhood are enshrined here around the companionship of a good dog. Morsberger makes poetry out of simple love in a magical bit of reverie. The album slips into darkness with "Blessed Unrest" averts the issue of goodbye with a paean to the afterlife, however one might envision it. It's a brief but powerful number that expresses hope for a new day and a new adventure.

On A Gesture and A Word, Rob Morsberger reflects on the past as well as the future in a wonderfully dreamy and transcendent musical experience.  For an artist who is facing death to write a work that is full of such abundant life is a blessing for his fans, friends and ultimately, his family.  Rob Morsberger takes his final bow with class and grace; just as he has lived all along.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

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