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Steve Amick There's Always Pie ...

CD review

Amick paints a mythical Michigan where everyone has the world's best cherry pie recipe, owns pet wolverines that walk on leashes and "goes bow hunting with the Nuge."

Steve Amick's CD release party will be from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room, 114 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. No cover. (734) 665-2757.

Not all authors make good songwriters, but Ann Arbor's Steve Amick was writing songs before his novel, The Lake, the River and the Other Lake, got picked up by Random House. Promoting the book forced Amick to delay the release of his debut CD, There's Always Pie ..., until now.

Amick did score a minor hit in 1989 with his band, Steve Amick & His Own Worst Enemies. The single got some play on East Coast college stations and a review in The Washington Post, which called him "a cheerful black humorist who is seriously askew."

That description still applies, though There's Always Pie ... has more in common with the wacky innocence of Jonathan Richman than the twisted comedy of Stephen Lynch. Each song is a love letter, some addressed to his wife, some to ex-girlfriends, some to his home state.

On "I Feel Sorry for You (If You Don't Live Here)," Amick paints a mythical Michigan where everyone has the world's best cherry pie recipe, owns pet wolverines that walk on leashes and "goes bow hunting with the Nuge."

Ann Arbor-area guest musicians -- including Timothy Monger and Greg McIntosh of Great Lakes Myth Society -- add a heap of instruments, including accordion; dobro; "broken cello"; and guiru, afuché and quica (whatever those are). Some of the ideas are half-baked, like the "la la las" on the opening track. Others are inspired, like the blaring trombone punctuating Dum-Dum.

For all the variety, the songs are simple, three-chord affairs. Anything more would bury the lyrics, which are full of strange-yet-rewarding twists and surprises.

"If you called me up in the dead of night like you do; and wanted to know who wrote Bambi; I probably wouldn't cuss you out -- much."

It's a goofy treat that will leave you hungry for a second helping.

-- Bill Chapin Originally published Friday, December 16, 2005