Forbert takes the road less traveled

April 03, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Almost a dozen years ago, it looked as if Steve Forbert was on the verge of something big. Not only had this Mississippi-born folk singer survived the "New Dylan" tag awarded his debut, "Alive on Arrival," but he even managed to sneak into the Top-40 with "Romeo's Tune," the wonderfully hummable single from his second album, "Jackrabbit Slim."

From there, it would have been easy enough for Forbert to have simply hitched a ride on the most convenient trend, and ridden it straight to the bank. But he had other ideas, and decided to stick with what he believed in -- even if it meant having the hit parade pass him by.

"You know, the music business is difficult," he says, speaking over the phone from his home in Nashville. "At some point you have to say, What am I doing? What am I trying to do? And you decide what it is.

"If you are trying to do things of a more serious nature -- like trying to tell the truth even when it's not very pleasant -- you realize you're taking the road less traveled. If you're going to do that, then you have to just say, That's the way it is going to be. And then you have to take the consequences."

What sort of consequences? No videos, for one thing. Even though Forbert's current album, "The American In Me," has been generally well-received in the press, his brand of thoughtful folk-rock seems to fall between the cracks as far as radio or MTV are concerned. As a result, his record company sees no point in financing a video to promote the album and its title tune.

Although Forbert admits that the decision "disappoints me," he understands the label's thinking. "They're so expensive, and a lot of times people find that even if they make them, they can't get them played," he says. "In fact, some friends of mine, the Questionnaires, made an expensive video, and no one wanted to use it.

"But I really want to make one, because around the world, the uses for it can be so good. This record is, in fact, released $H worldwide. If you can make one of those things and it's reasonably representative, you can send it to Taiwan. It at least shows people your basic approach to performing and what you look like."

Until then, however, Forbert has to make due with roadwork. A relentless concertizer, he's spent the last couple years touring as a solo performer, but has assembled a full band for his current outing. "I've done so much solo work in the last few years that this is kind of a treat for me," he says. "It's a lucky thing, really, that I can play solo, because there are times when there's just not enough going on to keep a band together."

Still, things seem to be getting better, and just as Forbert believes in being true to his art, he has faith that there will always be an audience for what he does.

"Things are improving with some of these progressive radio stations that are adult-oriented," he says. "Bruce Cockburn is probably doing better than he's ever done right now. But there are just so many people in the world, it's crazy to think that you have to gear things entirely towards kids -- T&A and drum machines, or metal. There are just so many people that, mathematically, if something's good, there should be quite a market for it. No matter what it is."

Steve Forbert

When: Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Where: Max's On Broadway, 735 S. Broadway.

Tickets: $7 in advance, $9 day of show.

Call: (410) 675-6297 for information, (800) 551-7328 for tickets.

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