David Stoddard is halfway between an observational comic and an activist singer/songwriter. Wisely, he has chosen to ply his trade on the folk music stage, as folk music fans tend to be kinder than comedy club-goers.
While a young comedian might get heckled, an up-and-coming songwriter is likely to be encouraged by the audience. Indeed, laughter peppers the dozen tracks on Stoddard's live CD, "Get Off My Lawn" (which could be the title of a curmudgeonly comedian's album).
The audience for Saturday's concert at Central Lakes College will love the observational material peddled by this Fergus Falls folkie. Stoddard is bemused by NASCAR's popularity on "Driving in a Circle," and on "Reality TV," he imagines how boring a show about his life would be.
Fergus Falls singer/songwriter David Stoddard will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Chalberg Theatre at Central Lakes College.
There are a few good witticisms in Stoddard's lyrics, often punched up by his exaggeratedly exasperated voice: "If you all like watching traffic/Why don't you look out the damn window."
And: "Although my language can get peppered with 'goshes' and 'hecks'/It's all rated G 'cause there's no violence or sex."
Stoddard's humor can be biting and self-deprecating, but it's mostly light and disposable. I don't understand the appeal of stock-car racing and "Survivor," either. He wrote songs, I changed the channel.
If you spin
Artist: David Stoddard.
Album: "Get Off My Lawn."
Highs: Stoddard touches on a wide range of topics, from NASCAR to nature, and the songs - always shorter than four minutes - are easy to sample.
Lows: Despite an occasional lyrical zinger, the songs are too breezy to make a serious impact.
But there's no doubt folk fans love this stuff. And they'll also love "Stuff," wherein Stoddard's Carlinesque protagonist frets that he might own less stuff than someone else - a horrible fate in 2008 in the U.S.A.
He drops the jokey approach for "Good Fences," which explores the breakdown of neighborliness as an American virtue - "get off my lawn," indeed. "The Company Says" chronicles one of those large faceless companies that roll into town, tears it up or pollutes it, and then puts its high-priced superlawyers to work.
There's nothing to laugh about here, and Stoddard doesn't. Nor does he show a lot of emotion in the other direction. He's like a tame Bruce Springsteen.
Some of the tracks are neither silly nor serious; they are simply old-fashioned folk. "River of Love," for example, is a delicate piano piece about Mother Nature.
Even then, the songs float away on the slightest breeze. Stoddard is a smooth, on-stage charmer who occasionally delivers a sharp barb. But on this CD, he gets stuck in that crack separating comedians and folk singers, not quite reaching either camp.
Stoddard will wrap up CLC's spring Cultural Arts Series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus. Tickets are $12.
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JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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