Steve Poltz – City Beat

City Beat – Cincinnati

Steve Poltz Dreamhouse
By Brian Baker

Steve Poltz’s success with The Rugburns on the band’s 1996 college radio hit “Taking the World by Donkey” was like a cherry bomb compared to the megaton attention that mushroomed around the singer/songwriter when he co-wrote the worldwide hit “You Were Meant for Me” with his friend Jewel.

Poltz parlayed his hit status into a solo Mercury contract but he only pushed out one album, 1998’s One Left Shoe, before extricating himself from the label in order to self-release a series of off-kilter masterworks, including Answering Machine (a collection of 56 songs clocking in at less than a minute that had served as Poltz’s outgoing messages), Live at Largo’s, Chinese Vacation and a live DVD. After a nearly five-year gap, Poltz returned with a pair of CDs that drifted just slightly away from the serious smartass direction of much of his catalog; 2008’s Traveling (distributed through regular channels) and Unraveling (sold only at shows).

On Poltz’s latest, Dreamhouse, he continues in the sonic and stylistic vein of Traveling/Unraveling, working a groove that straddles ’60s Pop, ’70s Folk Rock and contemporary Indie Pop. Poltz has also found a nice balance of comedy and gravity on Dreamhouse, from the Harry Nilssonesque Pop lilt of the title track and the Todd Snider funny Folk roll of “Killin’ Myself (To Be With You)” to the Jimmie Dale Gilmore-meets-Jorma Kaukonen waltz of “Dreams #23” and the jazzy Loudon Wainwright III-channeling-Willie Nelson dream Folk of “A Dog in Bosnia.” He even pulls off a magnificently spartan and completely unironic reading of “The Way We Were.”

Poltz typically has a masterpiece on every masterpiece and Dreamhouse is no exception. “License Plate Eyes” plays like a Sgt. Pepper outtake reimagined by Jon Brion while touching on many of the aforementioned reference points. It’s hard not to go overboard on the superlatives when talking about Steve Poltz, and Dreamhouse is simply the next in a series of great albums by a singer/songwriter who should be lionized with Hall of Fame fervor.