Tim Fite is about as far away from a conventional songwriter as its possible to be.
There's been some bands who have perpetrated some weird genre mixes, that's for sure, but the level of weird that Tim Fite is throwing out there is something the likes of which I haven't ever seen or heard. Fite has a strange connection with the dead, of sorts. Only he deals not with dead human beings, but with songs and albums that have long passed through record store bargain bins and garage sales. Those forgotten albums are his templates, and Gone Ain't Gone are where those templates see a second life.
So just why is this so hard to pin down to a specific genre? Well, mainly because throughout the course of seventeen songs, Fite makes that simply impossible. Meandering through the territories of alt-country and hip-hop, he makes every song a new adventure. One minute, he raps over the twangy, country sounding basis, the next minute, he's literally just speaking over some distorted, speedy punk riffing. It's so hard to look at album like this as a whole, as one identity; it's hard to see this album by the sum of its parts. The alt-country sound of "A Little Bit" is completely forgotten by the time "Disgrace" rolls around and its whimsical bells and whistles start their short journey. The amount of varied instrumentation included on this album is something quite impressive.
Acoustic and electric guitars, bells, whistles, accordions, hip-hop beats and samples, are all strewn about various parts in the record. Now, as impressive as it is that Fite can blend all these styles, genres, and instruments into one album, I tend to think that a more focused effort would better suit the disc. The somber "Mascara Lies" is a beautifully song effort, played just on the basis of some extremely basic strumming patterns, and that's all that's needed. Beauty in simplicity, it's exhibited on several other points as well. That's not to say pseudo-rapped tracks like "Forty-Five Remedies" don't have their day, but its obviously not where the strength is. It's an interesting listen, and it's not something that's often come across, but knowing how important flow is to an album, a song like that simply disrupts it. Not helping that aspect is the fact that there's seventeen songs on the album, seventeen! Simply too many to really focus your attention in a necessary manner. "Eating at the Grocery Store With William" is Fite's foray into mixing electronic samples and glitches with a simple folk tune, and he's just not able to pull it off as well as I'm sure he intended.
Even when it's over, I'm not quite sure that I know where I stand. It's extremely refreshing that there's songwriters out there willing to bend genre lines far beyond recognition, and that there's songwriters who absolutely refuse to set parameters to both their individual songs, and albums on a whole. The more folk sounding tunes are beautiful, haunting and sincere, but it's the other elements that sometimes lack a true place in the song. If Tim Fite can focus his musical ventures a bit more next time around, not limit them, but just focus a bit more, that's going to definitely be something to look out for.