June 22, 2022

Robert Eustis, The Tipping Point (Independent)

You’d think someone had written a good song about every possible topic, but New Orleans native Robert Eustis proves that’s not necessarily the case. There are songs here about living with COVID, about the best place for lasagna in your neighborhood, and a blues about how autocorrect turns your best words into scrambles. “Dry Mouth Blues” is about the effect lazy salivary glands can have on a singer, and “Sitting on the Porch” is about, well, sitting on the porch. And each of these tracks will leave you wondering why no one thought of writing them before.

Above all, Eustis proves that you don’t have to have a complicated life to write captivating songs. A good observer can find material anywhere. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t touch on larger topics. The title track is about the spiritual effects of the pandemic; it doesn’t minimize the dread that was in the air, but the song’s conclusion (“there’s hope for those of us who persevere”) sounds harsh and believable. A more jovial single, “When the Bus Goes By,” is about something any musician who performs on the streets will recognize: the need to stop singing when public transport is drowning you. It doesn’t even address romantic relationships until the very end of the album. “Not What I Got” is also about retirement from a day job and how music helped it (“How did I get here? I don’t know, but luckily I had a show”). This is the very definition of a tough lyric to live with.

Producer André Bohren brings in a list of local actors while keeping the focus on the singer and the lyrics; he only plays drums on the tracks that absolutely need it. Jack Craft and Aurora Nealand add cello and saxophone respectively to the title track. Their contributions are subtle and mood enhancing. But Eustis’ grizzled minstrel voice is the star here, and with 11 years since his previous album, he’s garnered quite a few good stories.

—Brett Milano