Review in Brief: Polka Dot Puzzle - Mr. Richard

PolkaDotPuzzle.jpgI can't say that I've been the biggest Mr. Richard fan in the past. On his first couple CDs, while they were enjoyable enough, I just couldn't quite hear what it was that attracted Florida-based Richard Peeples one of the most devoted fanbases in the genre. It might have been me, but more likely it was that Peeples' live show didn't translate perfectly to disk.

But with his most recent disk, Polka Dot Puzzle, I think Mr. Richard finally has a CD that will play well with those who won't get to hear his live show. Musically, the album covers a broad stylistic range, from the sunny pop-rock of "Treehouse" to the lo-fi "Woo Woo Truck" to the Italian pastiche of the jokey "Cheese." Such stylistic diversity is not rare anymore in the genre (if it ever was), but at least it's well-done. Check out the horns on "Bubble Bath" -- it's little well-thought-out additions such as those that elevate songs from pedestrian to something kinda special. I also need to commend "Butterfly Day," on which Lunch Money's Molly Ledford sweet voice harmonizes nicely with Peeples' gruff one.

Lyrically, Mr. Richard is definitely in tune with his inner 7-year-old, such as on "Treehouse." "Sorry, there's no girls allowed / But it's OK since you brought your dog / It's way cooler than the Honeycomb Hideout." (OK, perhaps that last line really shows he's in tune with his own inner 7-year-old.) I can hear how, even without his backing musicians, the songs here (even the ones I didn't enjoy as much) would really communicate kids ages 3 through 8. Right now you can hear "Treehouse" at his Myspace page or sample all the tracks at the album's CDBaby page.

At barely 24 minutes in length (with 2 1/2 minutes of that a "hello" song and a "goodbye" song), Polka Dot Puzzle is barely more than an EP. But it's a fun EP, and one showcases Mr. Richard's strengths, even to those who probably won't be hearing him live any time soon. Recommended.