Charlie Mosbrook has been a constant presence in Cleveland’s folk/acoustic/singer-songwriter/open mic scene for 25 years now. The relationships and the respect he’s built are showcased on his latest album (his 10th), Something to Believe, with contributions from an array of talented area players. Why he’s built those relationships and that respect is showcased in the well-written tunes and in Mosbrook’s unaffected and affecting performances of them.
The album’s 12 tunes are full of soul-searching sentiments and lilting melodies that have an instant familiarity, well-served by the arrangements that, even when relatively complex, still have a spontaneous, friends-jamming-with-friends feel.
One of Mosbrook’s friends, Steve Inglish (once known on the blues circuit here as Mr. Downchild), kicks off the disc with a blast of harmonica, leading into the title tune whose gentle, bluesy melody and statement of purpose are accented throughout by Inglish’s harmonica and Greg Alan Reese’s banjo.
From there, the album moves smoothly through a series of high and low moods. Introspective tunes like “A World Not Seen,” and the lonely “Erie Shore,” which make you feel like you’re eavesdropping on someone thinking out loud, contrast with the more expansive “Something to Lose” and “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” the album’s only non-original song. Mosbrook, with Bill Lestock pitching in on fiddle, has transformed it into the sort of jaunty Celtic-style outing that gets coffeehouse crowds clapping and singing along. And “Shining Through” feels like a standard in the making — a generous love song that could be a jumping-off for a multitude of interpretations and arrangements.
The back-to-back “Blame” and “Creepy” offer two different attitudes toward self-examination. On the former, Abbey Blake’s serves almost as a conscience to Mosbrook’s lyric, as the idea of who’s to blame here seems to keep shifting, and it’s never clear whether the narrator is accepting blame or passing the buck. The airy “Creepy” injects some humor as it explores ideas of self-presentation and self-image, with lyrics like “I’m not as creepy as I feel right now.”
The album’s last three songs illustrate how much range Mosbrook has within the seemingly limited confines of the acoustic singer-songwriter genre. “Crook Stick” references the spinal injury he suffered a few years ago and his use of medical marijuana to relieve his pain. It’s not a polemic but a plain-spoken expression of personal experience.
He lightens the mood with the spirited drinking song “I Will Be Coming Home to You” which asserts, “Once I’m off the floor/I sweat I will have no more/I will be coming home to you.” It features lively harmonica from Inglish and vocal and guitar contributions from another talented area folkie and friend of Mosbrook’s, Avin Loki Baird. “January Sky” changes things up again, its sober but hopeful reflectiveness underscored by cello, a chorus of female harmony vocals, and a delicate filigree of trumpet.
Mosbrook will be playing at the Winchester, where he’ll be joined by Avin Loki Baird. Admission is $5.