James Babb imbues his devastating wit, ornery perspective, and musical language within each of the ribald tales in River Music. This is exemplified in the “Prelude,” his opus about “the occasional laugh, the occasional thought, a bit about fly fishing and a bit about Life, and all of it underpinned by the music of rivers.” The pieces are arranged in a harmonious current that carries us through the seasons, and life itself.
He recounts a disastrous--and hilarious--spring canoeing trip with a friend in “The Darling Buds of May,” where the snow accumulated so quickly on their hats that they “looked like Conehead voyageurs from Remulak.” In “The Coriolis Effect,” Babb rhapsodizes about the sights, smells, and culture of what he considers to be the last great place on Earth, where pristine Chilean waters and a native way of life relieve him of an obsession about which direction the water flushes. And in “Little Jewels,” he weaves an exquisite, deeply humorous, and haunting nocturne with peccadillo accompaniment that considers the mating habits of trout and men, mortality, and a thirty-nine-year-long unrequited love. Babb is a maverick whose latest offering is a true departure from conventional essays on fly fishing, or on any subject, and will be relished by the growing circle of Babb fanatics everywhere.