Justin Furstenfield: Songs From An Open Book

Seductive acoustic recording from the Blue October frontman.

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It’s not the most innovative of ideas, but stripping down your songs and performing them with a solitary acoustic guitar can provide a fresh and engaging take on the already familiar.

Furstenfeld made his reputation as part of Blue October, and Songs From An Open Book contains his re-recorded, unplugged renditions of many of their finer tunes, interspersed with narrated anecdotes. It’s a novel tactic that succeeds by giving the album an underlying flow, even if the spoken tales may well grate on repeated listens. Musically, though, these cerebral songs have benefited from the acoustic facelift. Stripped of a full band swagger, they possess a certain sophistication and fragility. At times reminiscent of Counting Crows, songs such as Sound Of Pulling Heaven Down and Worry List remain incisive, despite the gentleness here. There may well be critics who damn Furstenfeld for the one-paced nature of these tracks, but that’s the whole point. Some of the original intricacies may well be missing, but the intimacy here – notably on Calling You – provides further insight into the heartfelt motives behind the songs, and that’s an achievement.