As much as I find terms like "world-class" and "masterpiece" meaningless - usually bestowed because of widespread fame and commercial success, after all - I have to suggest that the work of Madison folksinger Marques Bovre deserves a place at the table. Even though Bovre never hit it big and didn't land a major-label contract, anyone familiar with his body of songwriting and recording knows his lyrics and melodies sound right at home in an iPod shuffle with tunes from Dylan, Wilco, the Band, Arlo Guthrie - heck, Woody Guthrie.
It's straightforward folk rock with lyrics that are clear yet sometimes a little twisted, crooned in an unmistakable voice that can be as smooth and sweet as a James Taylor or a Jackson Browne yet as dusty as a Jeff Tweedy. If you lived here in the 1990s, Marques Bovre was the sound of Madison. Charming, dour, sly, political, whimsical, elegiac, Bovre's songs celebrate the everyday, infuse the everyday with magic. "This is a song," he says of "Welcome" on the Live at the Pres House CD, "about the place where romance and appliances meet."
As hard as it is to pick just one, why not "Ground That I Own" from the fabulous CD Faith Is a Muscle? A soothing song about death, it's also about the comfort of being part of a place, and part of the Earth - a place "where your neighbors know just what you're thinking and just where you been, so look away, hey, hey, I got a home of my own, and it is here that I'll stay until the day they lay me down."