the past and present steve forbert

steve forbert

steve forbert.

Usually when people say the past has a way of catching up with you, the connotations are not encouraging. What they really mean is that the consequences of some nefarious deeds from years gone by are about to rock your present day world but good.

Luckily, the past has caught up with veteran folk-pop stylist Steve Forbert on far friendlier terms. This year, the singer followed the release of Over With You, his fine 2012 indie treatise on the often conflicting emotions at the heart of modern relationships, with re-issues of his first two albums – 1978’s Alive on Arrival and 1979’s Jackrabbit Slim. Those were the records that set the career of this Meridian, Mississippi songwriter into motion. The latter also scored a huge folk-pop hit, Romeo’s Tune, that threw Forbert into the camp of the critically labeled “new Dylans.”

“It’s gratifying,” said Forbert, who performs Sunday at Natasha’s, of the second life his first records are receiving. “It means, in a sense, that those records stood the test of time. That’s kind of what it’s about, isn’t it?

“I’m just saying if you’re putting out what we’ll call ‘a work of art,’ to have it receive some attention 35 years after the fact is fantastic. This hasn’t been the reissue that Exile on Main St was. But I’m happy about it.”

To better appreciate the lasting influence of Alive on Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim, you have to understand the kind of artistic climate change that surrounded their creation. In 1976, Forbert left Mississippi for New York City. But the folk revival that thrived in areas like Greenwich Village during the previous decade had been replaced by punk.

Still, in a land where bands like Blondie, Talking Heads and the Ramones were beginning to breakthrough to mainstream audiences, Forbert stuck to his folk-fortified roots. As a result, Alive on Arrival was a huge critical hit (as have most of the songwriter’s recordings since then) while Jackrabbit Slim leaned closer to pop and put Forbert on the radio.

“My attitude is my attitude, even though I’m not a person who has much ‘attitude.’ A lot of the punk thing had this sneer to it, but I wasn’t coming from a lot of overt rebellion. That wouldn’t be my thing. I went to (the famed New York music club) Max’s Kansas City and I didn’t like the vibe. I didn’t really try to play there. But you have to understand (New York new music haven) CBGB’s was run by people who were interested in all kinds of music. The so-called New Wave thing grew like a mushroom in the dark there. So the idea wasn’t that weird for me to be there. But I never wore a skinny tie or anything like that.”

The voice that reaches out on Over With You is more learned, weary and worn. With instrumental support from Ben Harper and Kentucky’s own Ben Sollee, the album has its dark moments (like the opening All I Asked of You). But the pop hopefulness from those early days still propels much of Forbert’s newer music.

“This is a young person’s game. Older people are inherently busier with wives, parental responsibilities, jobs, who-knows-what. It was easy when I got started to break through to my sub-generation through college radio and newspapers and music magazines. But even music magazines now are generally oriented toward the latest thing. People get over it and they get busier. I’m not really trying to reach 21 year olds anyway. Take All I Asked of You. That’s really not much of a kid’s song. It’s just harder to crack that world when you get older.”

Steve Forbert performs at 8 p.m. Aug. 25 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $15. Call (859) 259-2754 or go to

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