There are some artists who are tireless students of music, constantly exploring the historical corners of country, blues and folk to better understand the anatomy of song. Greg Klyma is one of them. In fact, for several years he has brought that exploration to the stage via a weekly showcase that features a revolving cast of local players and an always eclectic set list.
The musical wanderlust carries over into his own music, as captured on the just released Never Knew Caroline. Klyma takes the listener on a musical journey, evoking the eclectic meandering of his musical exploration.
If there’s one consistency across the album’s ten tracks it is a 1970’s sensibility. That vibe carries through the Colorado country of the title track to the Greenwich Village air of “Sand.” Then there’s the outlaw country ramble of “Ex-Girlfriend’s Cost Less Money Than Ex-Wives,” which I’d put up against any country song coming out of Nashville or any other southern locale.
Joining Klyma on his musical escapade are some of his regular Americana Sunday guests as well as his fellow Buffalo, NY natives Gurf Morlix and Peter Case. Celebrated guitar-slinger Bill Kirchen also drops in a few tasty licks for good measure. I suppose they all just wanted in on the fun. Can’t say that I blame them.
Sometimes simplicity and authenticity take the day. Just ask Lisa Bastoni, who returns from a decade-long hiatus with an outstanding new album that marries wholesome melodies with a winsome flair. More to the point, songs like “In This Town” and “Weightless” are downright smile-inducing; even the melancholy “Rabbit Hole has a remarkable charm.
Bastoni’s songs are rooted in folk storytelling, complete with an attention to detail that is captivating. She does so in a way that takes experiences that takes what are clearly personal experiences and makes them universally engaging.
Musically Bastoni steps beyond the folk idiom with full-band arrangements that make the songs even more endearing. Contributions from talented friends including Eleanor Whitmore, Chris Masterson and Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor provide extra depth, however texture, however The Wishing Hour remains Bastoni’s, um, hour. Hopefully it won’t be another ten years until the next album.
Hey Bottle Rockets fans, here’s one for ya – the Twangville faves back up Boston’s Susan Cattaneo on two tracks from her just released double album. Although the tracks were written by and are sung by Cattaneo, they have all the hallmarks of Bottle Rockets classics, from the ramshackle guitar-driven sound to the no B.S. attitude.
Truth be told, that’s just the appetizer for an outstanding – and diverse – collection of songs. Each album in the collection has a distinctive character. “The Hammer” is the rock assemblage while “The Heart” is the acoustic companion. The songs move seamlessly from the bluesy (and ballsy) “Back Door Slam” to the poignant heartbreak ballad “Bitter Moon” to the relaxed groove of “Smoke.” “When Love Goes Right,” a personal favorite co-written and featuring Bill Kirchen, even sounds like a lost classic from the Willie Nelson catalog.
The production is pristine and engaging, with diverse instrumentation that elegantly support the songs. A bit of lap steel here, some mandolin there. Especially on the ballads, the arrangements create an emotive foundation for the tales the Cattaneo tells.
The one constant is the joyfulness and enthusiasm that Cattaneo brings with her writing and her voice.
Dan Blakeslee is among the most colorful – and delightful – musicians in New England. So perhaps it isn’t a surprise that the music that he creates is both idiosyncratic and entertaining.
Blakeslee is the consummate storyteller, spinning yarns that would make many a fiction writer jealous. His songs are inhabited by a range of fanciful characters whose narratives stretch from the imaginative to the profound. He tells these tales in a voice that recalls the wandering minstrels from a bygone era, part carnival barker and part rural preacher.
The Maine native, not surprisingly, infuses his music with a decidedly New England air. He and his band The Calabash Club sound like The Band if that group was reared in New England rather opposed to Canada (or Levon Helm’s Arkansas). In that light it is perhaps not a surprise to learn that the album was recorded “by a waterfall near the railroad tracks in Rollinsford, NH.” That rural charm shines brightly across The Alley Walker.
A few years back, multi-instrumentalist Andy Santospago spent a year recording tracks with a dozen Boston singers, working diligently to produce a song per month. The songs were a real treat, a collection as diverse as the singers who Santospago invited to sing them.
Fast forward and Santospago’s back at it, although this time with a much different theme. He’s four months into a project called AM Gold, original songs that written and performed in the 1970’s soft rock style that inspired him as a youngster. The results are far from shlocky, they are well-crafted songs that are meticulously arranged. As one might have said back in the day (because there’s a web site for everything), outta sight (or should that be bitchin’)!
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.