Strange Famous may finally earn his alter ego's surname
(Epitaph) The first time I saw rapper-activist-poet Sage Francis at a surly biker bar in Minneapolis, he had confidently outfitted himself in a white one-piece getup that looked much like the kind billboard painters wear in cartoons. By the time 30-something Sage, typically sweaty and unshaven finished slathering an eager audience with the vicious verbage,
painful punchlines and emotionally-charged wordplay his fans expect, I was convinced the white suit might have, fittingly, come from an asylum. Now, this is not to allege Providence's proud son is legitimately nuts, because when it comes down to it, you'd be hard pressed to find his stream-of-consciousness storytelling as severely honest.
But when Sage is up there, you can see his mind completely take over his body to the point where it feels like if he didn't deliver the verses, he'd suddenly grow three heads and combust (or worse). Witnessing this sort of performance makes listening to his albums a distant second option, and perhaps it's the break Sage took from touring (after Personal Journals dropped to major acclaim in 2002) that snuffed out his rocket ride to Almost Famousville. But with this new record, it's quite possible he could be its mayor.
Teeming with the kind of personality a live show begs for, Human the Death Dance comprises of 16 tracks that prove Sage can still spit that wry wit. Infamous for finding the faultless median between poetry slam champ (which he basically is) and unbeatable battle rapper (he's certainly that), Sage summons singer Jolie Holland for added impact on his
songs about broken relationships ("Black Out on White Night" and "Got Up This Morning"). The latter is a honky-tonk rap song, so you know Buck 65 isn't far (he produced it), and Odd Nodsam shows up as producer on "Underground for Dummies," the album's fi rst full track: "Stalkin," walkin' in my big black boots /I'm the DIY artist with thick grass roots." While Personal Journals introduced Sage to his fan base, his follow-up, A Healthy Distrust, repelled some of them with its abrasive edge and chaotically arranged production. HTDD will bring them back, though, as its tracks work together to form a cohesive, incredibly personal whole. He might not even need the silly stage getups when he tours for this one.
Reviewer: Jen Boyles
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