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Finally Friday features Bob McCarroll in Tempe

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Finally Friday at the Tempe Art Center is an unexpectedly regenerative weekly affair. Last night's strumming singer-songwriter, Scottish raised Bob McCarroll, visited with Examiner about his easy-on-the-ears music before the show.

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Snippets of hushed conversation --about rosewood guitar soundboards, about leaving the corporate grind for a job with a video production company, about moving to a quiet neighborhood-- wafted between patio tables, mingling with a mildly intoxicating fragrance of citrus blossoms that are at their Spring peak this week. The uninitiated may have been surprised to note there was nary a cell phone in sight. Long shadows in the background stretched across the water's edge stage, while a rowing team silently glided by in perfect synchronicity.

And at the cohesive center was Bob. His gentle jazz improvisations and Sinatra-like love songs enfolded the crowd into his element. "When it's my performing and recording, I don't really worry about making money. I just write it to get it out," he almost apologized, characterizing the motive behind his music.

The worry-free McCarroll ambiance was enhanced last night by Tempe Art Center's picturesque, outdoor unwinding-ground that offers free catered hors d'oeuvres and an open bar to work week escapees.

"They're really just fluffy, silly love songs," McCarroll remarked offhandedly about the music he writes and performs, but even their titles belie his words. So don't let his "I'm not a wordsmith," declarations fool you.

"I wrote 'Who Cares' for my wife," McCarroll said, recalling distant memories of the couple's pre-married days. Not yet having found his graphic design career niche that has supported his family and fed his music-making habit, he continued, "I felt inadequate. Her friends were telling her I was a bum."

He paused thoughtfully for a moment before saying, "Goodbye, Good Friend' ...With that song, I wanted the lyrics to be universal, but it's a tribute to a friend who died of cancer. He was already gone, but I thought, 'I'm gonna' sit down and write to him."

Maybe what McCarroll was trying to articulate was that even he senses the welcoming simplicity of his songs' messages and their crystalline delivery. The Finally Friday performance series, though he has also produced several CDs, is the perfect way to experience what McCarroll offers. But just like the silhouetted rowers who expend huge, focused energy to make that smooth glide appear effortless, so too, we're on to what's hidden in Bob.

-Jennifer Haaland

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