For many a year Fitzgerald has plied his trade as a folk singer, a troubadour with an acoustic guitar. Over that time he has earned the respect of fellow musicians, always a good indicator that an artist warrants attention. Let’s give credit where credit is due – they are right.
For his latest release, Fitzgerald decided to try something different. He invited Providence rock band Smith and Weeden into the studio and emerged with an album heavy on booming rhythms and blaring electric guitars (insert your own Dylan goes electric reference here).
What remains constant, however, is the incisive intelligence of his songwriting. Fitzgerald excels at character studies, digging deeper than most writers into the personas of those who inhabit his songs. In doing so he is more than an innocent observer, not hesitating to offer a point of view on decisions right and wrong.
“Her luck was legendary among friends who lack for legends,” he sings on “Last To Know,” continuing, “she was born to lose but hasn’t learned that yet.” On “The First Port” he barks at a scornful lover, “No one else will make you answer for the lack of what you stand for, but I’m sure you’ll make up something to believe.”
While electric guitars underscore many of the tracks, they make way for a fiddle as the album progresses. “When All Else Fails,” for example, rattles along with a decidedly country hoe-down feel as Fitzgerald spits out lyrics like a square dance caller.
Fitzgerald slows things down towards the album’s conclusion. The poignant “Monroe” conjures up images of a sleepy, downtrodden town as Fitzgerald somewhat wistfully reflects on a relationship gone bad. A haunting string section gives the song added depth as he concedes the town to her.
And every stranger I’ve seen since seems to be speaking hieroglyphs
I can’t get over what she was just getting over with
I’ve heard tell that she’s in Terre Haute or down in Mexico
But she knows I’ll never go back, so she’ll never leave Monroe
“All That’s Left” is a brilliant closer. Fitzgerald’s acoustic guitar and a tambourine open the song, soon joined by a restrained vocal chorus that gives the song a captivating gospel undercurrent. The song tells a somber tale of coping with death, Fitzgerald singing “all that’s left is the morning, then he’s gone.”
A sobering close, for sure, but a testament to the weight of Fitzgerald’s songwriting.
You’ll find all the finer elements of 1960’s soul – from Muscle Shoals to Stax to Motown – on Boston pop singer Jenna Lotti’s latest ep. It’s rarely a bad thing when simmering organ, fatback drums and a healthy dose of horns lead the charge. The special bonus is Lotti’s powerful voice, with its decidedly sultry edge and a pull no punches attitude.
The title track is a great example, a nasty (in the best possible way) ode to kicking some bad habits. Lotti makes being bad sound mighty good.
Charette returns with a 3-song something – it’s not quite an ep but certainly more than a single… Along with his band The Truer Sound, the songs remain true to the sound of his earlier full-length (pun intended). Think a bit of Americana delivered with plenty of electric guitar and a rock and roll sneer.
The centerpiece (and title track) is a melodic and rumbling ode to a relationship gone bad. “It’s a hard lesson learned when you know you’re gonna fail and you realize you’re gonna hurt someone,” he sings, “I won’t hang my head ‘cause I refuse to quit you, this is how it’s gonna end push come to shove.”
There’s something to be said for rock and roll done right. That’s what makes Watts so fun – live and on record they’re all about playing with an unbridled intensity. Every track is ripe for foot-tappin’ and fist-pumpin’, led by twin guitars that are eagerly accompanied by an “in your face” rhythm section.
As for those lyrics, song titles like “Up All Night” and “Fast and Loose” tell you what you need to know. These guys like to sing about the glorified side of rock and roll, letting you decide whether it is real or perceived.
It’s tempting to say that Watts let their guitars do the talking but that doesn’t do them justice. It’s as much about a rhythm section that plays with an “in your face” intensity.
If you’re looking for a ballad you’d better look elsewhere. ‘cause these guys are all about the rock.
Boston’s Upper Crust are a sight to behold. They are, without a doubt, Boston’s – if not the world’s – finest purveyors of aristocratic rock. Imagine AC/DC if they were 18th century British nobles. While one may be tempted to write them off as a novelty act, the quartet have the rock and roll chops to make countless other bands come across as meek and boorish.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.