ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
Wander Away, by Mike Errico
I can think of less than a handful of times where I have seen an artist silence a room with a song. One of the most impressive was watching Errico, armed with just his guitar, silence a rowdy New York audience with just a single song. Such was my introduction to Mike Errico.
Errico’s sound has evolved from those early acoustic years into what is best described as a majestic rock sound. Many of the tracks have sparse lyrics, not a bad thing as it focuses attention on the music. And the music across this release is captivating, simultaneously tense and soothing. These are songs that are rich with imagery and emotion.
Opener “Ready or Not,” for example, complements electric guitars with strings to achieve a lush feel. “Breath deep and keep it together,” commands Errico, a line that functions as much as a guide for how to appreciate the album as it is a message to the song’s protagonist.
“Everybody Knows” is a gentle ballad, with acoustic guitar and luxurious strings gently moved along by a percussive beat. “You are scared, we all are scared,” counsels Errico to someone seemingly overwhelmed by life.
Waving Goodbye is a personal favorite as much because it captures the essence of Errico’s music. Bright and airy, it recasts a break-up as a liberating and optimistic joyful celebration. “Every cloud a silver lining, every day a new sun shining,” he sings, “Lessons learned in perfect timing, and I’m waving goodbye.”
The haunting “Someday,” a song that dates back to his early career, closes the album to dramatic effect. Backed by xylophone and simple percussion, Errico delivers a haunting performance that recalls that will likely leave you in awe of this impressive performer.
Audio Download: Mike Errico, “Waving Goodbye”
Alex Dezen is a music survivor. Early in his career he played the major label game, doing his part by consistently delivering literate pop anthems. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps that was part of the inspiration for “No One Listens to the Band Anymore,” the title track that laments “no one seems to hear the music ‘cause no one listens to the band anymore.” Music this good, however, deserves to be heard.
Dezen seems to have an endless supply of hooks, each one catchier than the next. “Let’s Be Civilized” starts with a soaring chorus, adding horns and percussion to drive the song to impressive heights. The lyrics chronicle a man struggling to communicate with his lover, declaring, “I was seething with an impious rage, ‘cause I was stuck inside a poemless page,” before proclaiming “no one’s gonna rescue you ‘cause no one has a fucking clue, so let’s be civilized, let’s say ‘I love you.’”
Even when he slows things down, the songs are equally memorable. “The Monster” starts as a slow, methodical melody builds to power-ballad levels as Dezen laments, “And the monster’s heart is the worst part, it bleeds for the great big nothing.”
When was the last time that you heard references the Beatles “A Day In the Life” and “America the Beautiful” in a single song? Dezen brings them together in the tender ballad “The Great Unknown,” adding his own touch with lyrics like “have you heard the news today, oh boy, the broken heart’s still unemployed.”
This is music well-crafted and inviting, never a bad thing.
Audio Download: The Damnwells, “No One Listens to the Band Anymore”
Usual Suspects, Ha Ha Tonka (from the Bloodshot Records release Death of a Decade)
I suppose that Ha Ha Tonka is easiest described as a rock band, but that doesn’t do them justice. They mix it up with a bits of jam band, country, folk and pop, all the while staying true to their Ozark Mountain heritage. If you enjoy exceptional harmonies set against backwoods beats, this is the song – and the band – for you.
Audio Download: Ha Ha Tonka, “Usual Suspects”
Just Like You, Jimmy Ryan (from the Ruido Grande Records single “Just Like You” b/w “In My Soul”)
50% rockin’ country + 50% pop = 110% fun. Me thinks that I’ve got a new front-runner for song of the year. “I don’t like where the whiskey takes me, I don’t like it, baby, but I just like you…”
Audio Stream: Jimmy Ryan, “Just Like You”
Girls With Accents, Fences (from the Onto Entertainment release Fences)
Singer-songwriter Christopher Mansfield mines the depths of human interactions and emotion on his debut release. This track, with a heavy pop edge, finds the singer in a state of discontent. At times it seems to be the result of achieving his ambition, at others it reflects self-inflicted failure.
Dillinger Eyes, Jeremy Messersmith (from the self-released The Reluctant Graveyard)
It’s hard to sound retro and contemporary at the same time but Messersmith pulls it off nicely. His songs are filled with brilliant hooks wrapped in Brian Wilson-esque sonic landscapes. Add his crystalline voice the mix and you’ve got some mighty fine pristine pop.
I’d Rather Be Lonely, Jeanne Jolly (from the self-released Falling in Carolina)
This aching ballad from Jolly’s latest release reminds me a bit of Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” While the songs offer differing views of loneliness, the way that each artist wraps voice around melody is spine-tingling.
Audio Download: Jeanne Jolly, “I’d Rather Be Lonely”
Misery Loves Company, The Trews (from the CEN release Hope & Ruin)
Canada’s Trews excel at delivering big ol’ shiny rock songs. Their latest continues the trend with a collection of rock anthems filled with blaring electric guitars and tight harmonies. This track, in particular, makes for a great soundtrack to a sunny weekend afternoon.
Audio Stream: The Trews, “Misery Loves Company”
You’ve Been Lyin’, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears (from the Lost Highway Records release Scandalous)
Austin’s Lewis and his crack ensemble know how to bring out the backwoods roadhouse in their scorching R&B. As a special bonus, vocal group the Relatives, formed in Dallas over 40 years ago, chime in with some feisty background vocals.
View Part 1 of the March/April playlist here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.