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Published: 2011/03/29
by Brian Robbins

Triple Fret
Songs In Borrowed Time


On one hand, it would be easy to say that one couldn’t be blessed with guitar guru Steve Kimock as a friend and mentor for a good chunk of four decades without it affecting their own guitar style. On the other hand, it seems that one would also have to be blessed with the talent to be able to make use of the exposure to high levels of Kimockness, eh?

Mike Babyak fits the bill on all counts listed above. And while he and Mr. K have been fellow tone travelers since the mid-70s, Babyak is more than a clone … think of him as a member of the same brotherhood of strings who has forged his own path. Granted, there are times when Babyak and his band Triple Fret’s new album Songs In Borrowed Time will remind you of moments in Kimock history, but they are simply visits to the same frontier by kindred souls.

For instance, imagine Paul Simon sitting in with SKB and you might end up with the sweet bounce of Triple Fret’s “Lucy” in your head. Or listen to Babyak and company tear into the spaceship-with-a-glasspack-muffler grin of “The Man With The X-Ray Eyes” and try not to think of Kimock’s classic “Hillbillies From Outer Space”. But it’s okay: if there are common threads, they’re woven with respect and admiration – and Triple Fret stands on their own six feet.

While Babyak is obviously an accomplished player on things stringed, it needs to be noted that Triple Fret is indeed a band – and it’s the talents of bassist E. Scott Warren and percussionist Mike Rosado that allow Babyak the freedom to go off exploring. Prime examples of their shape-shifter rhythm section talents are the joyous rolling-and-tumbling world beat of “Everybody’s Africa”, followed by the lurching swamp stomp of “Eyes On The Prize”. Or, how about “Beethoven’s Birthday”, which proves that Rosado can be just a great rock ‘n’ roll drummer, plain and simple, while Warren lays down a bass solo that’ll steal your heart with its beauty.

Babyak is the lead vocalist on Songs In Borrowed Time and he does a fine job of it. Whatever he lacks in range Babyak more than makes up for in passion on songs like “Flora Linda” (Love hurts! It’s great!) and the lap steel-infused “Mexolina Dream”. And, just as with his guitar playing, Babyak’s vocals get the heart of the song out there without overdoing it. And that’s a point that should be made: these dozen tunes are more than just vehicles for some flashy guitar work. They’re songs first; just as Triple Fret is a band.

This much talent could easily come with enough ego to pooch the vibe. Not so with Songs In Borrowed Time – the album is a welcoming collection of tunes that are eclectic without sounding everything-but-the-kitchen-sinky, impressive without being grandstanding.

In short, a class act that’s fun.

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