Greg Trooper’s songs have been recorded by the likes of Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, and Vince Gill, but I’d say they sound best sung in his own rough-hewn voice. On his latest release, Floating (Sugarhill), Trooper treads a fine line between cynicism and idealism, experience and hope. He tends to write about people who’ve been burned by life but still continue to search for love, peace, or grace. Though undeniably earnest, he keeps clear of the pathos that makes people flinch at the term “singer-songwriter” through gentle, self-deflating humor (evident in “Lucky That Way,” a song about not getting lucky) and an oddball capacity to find oblique inspiration in unexpected quarters (clearly manifest in “Muhammad Ali,” which turns a TV appearance by the aging boxer into a lesson in the true meaning of Christmas). The overall sound is less guitar driven than 2001’s Straight Down Rain–some of the spare arrangements are reminiscent of the Band’s “Brown Album.” Thursday, January 15, 8:30 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. Saturday, January 17, 8 PM, Congregational Unitarian Church, 221 Dean, Woodstock; 815-338-5164.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Wilson.