The musical ground in Boston and New England has been especially fertile this year. We’ve already seen some outstanding releases by artists that run the gamut from long-time favorites to incrediblely talented newcomers. To that end, here is the latest installment in our periodic series highlighting Boston and New England artists. (View the complete series here.)
For anyone wondering, this is the song whose lyric is referenced in the title.
There are musical institutions and then there is Peter Wolf. The man is a one man musical appreciation society. His latest release only furthers this reputation, with twelve tracks that reach from country to blues and from R&B to bluegrass.
The album’s finer moments show the singer-songwriter, some 50 years into his musical career, in a reflective mood. “I’ve been straight, I’ve been true, I’ve been knocked down, black and blue,” he sings on “Piece of Mind.“ A relaxed groove ushers the song along as he declares, “all I’m tryin’ to find is just a little piece of mind.”
Not all of the songs on his latest are new compositions. The ones that he revisits from his extensive back catalog, however, are imbued with a satisfying freshness. “Wastin’ Time,” which originally appeared as a ballad on 2005’s Long Line, appears here as a sauntering rocker. And then there’s a version of the J. Geils Band’s classic “Love Stinks,” reimagined as a bluegrass hoedown. Damn if it doesn’t work brilliantly.
Adding to the record’s charm is the fact that several of the tracks are live performances. Anyone who has ever seen Wolf live, know that he is a master showman. A Cure for Loneliness captures that magic marvelously.
It’s hard to escape the image of Johnny and June when one listens to Providence, Rhode Island’s Cowboy and Lady. The cowboy, in this case, is Tyler-James Kelly (showcasing a country side that isn’t always apparent in his other project, rockers The Silks); the lady in question is Jess Powers.
Not surprisingly, the hardships of life and love are a recurring theme across the nine tracks presented here. Kelly and Powers offer some perspectives on “Now That You’re Gone” and “When Times are Hard,” respectively. “I’ve been wrong so many times, I don’t cry I just hang my head,” confesses Kelly on the former while Powers sings “we’ve come together times before, we’ve got to try, try, try once more” on the latter.
A jubilant honky-tonk piano stands in sharp contrast to the lyrical lament of “Fool with a Song” “Often I wonder where I went wrong, where all my time has gone,” the duo sing, “And all my life I’ve tried to hold on, I’m just another fool with a song.”
The honky-tonk piano, accompanied by some fine guitar-picking from Kelly, later sets the stage for the spirited “Long Gone.” Throw in some sparkling vocals from Kelly and Powers and you’ve got something special. Johnny and June would no doubt be pleased.
Just My Luck, Dennis Brennan (from the forthcoming self-released Into This World)
I don’t often write about an album several months before it’s release. There are exceptions to every rule, however, and new music from Dennis Brennan is one of them.
It has been nearly ten – yes, ten – years since Brennan’s last release, the outstanding Engagement. Fortunately, at least for those of us in Boston, Brennan has hardly been idle in that time. He has been spending his time holding down several residencies each week, most notably taking over one of Twangville’s favorite clubs, The Lizard Lounge, most Wednesdays.
Into This World is a welcome return to the studio and further cements Brennan’s reputation as a songwriting craftsman of the highest order. Like Peter Wolf (who can periodically be found at Brennan’s Wednesday gig and gave it a shout out from the stage at one of his own Boston concerts recently), Brennan is well-studied in the school of rock and roll. He veers from Merle Haggard to Gil-Scott Heron with ease at his live shows and this deep musical knowledge influences his own work.
Lyrically, his songs are filled with working class characters who are trying their best at life, love and work. Sometimes they find success, sometimes they don’t. Brennan tells their stories with a raw and vivid sense of detail, doing so with few, if any, wasted words.
We’re pleased to share “Just My Luck,” the lead track from the forthcoming release. The song opens with Brennan talking about disappointment at the blackjack and craps tables but quickly turns his attention the trials of love. And don’t let the acoustic guitars and ambling beat of this track fool ya, we’ve gotten a preview of Into This World and most of it rocks. I guess Brennan and his top notch band built up some pent-up energy in the ten years between recording…
Matt Lorenz, aka The Suitcase Junket, follows up 2015’s excellent Make Time with an eclectic collection that showcases the range of his talent. From the swampy rock of the title track to the Tom Waits-esque “Let Go”, Lorenz demonstrates that a one-man band can be both melodic and raw.
The EP also contains two live versions of songs that originally appeared on earlier albums. The tender “Wherever I Wake Up,” a personal favorite from Make Time, is just as powerful here. Lorenz even showcases his vocal prowess, mimicking a trumpet solo with his voice.
It’s wonderful to hear an artist undertaking a musical journey. Tanya Donelly, known for her earlier work with seminal indie rock bands Belly, Throwing Muses and the Breeders, does so on this 31-track collection that explores a variety of genres. The results are as engaging as they are expansive.
Many of the tracks were originally released as part of an extended series of EPs that Donelly released in 2013-2014. The process of recording them was as diverse as the music that they contain – over 40 musicians, including folks like Wesley Stace (John Wesley Harding) and Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom) lend their talents. As remarkable, the sessions took place in 14 different studios that spanned two continents.
Musically the album is rooted in the indie pop sound even as the musical packaging ranges from tender ballads to unbridled rockers. The one constant is Donelly’s alluring voice and songwriting.
Wrentham, MA sextet The Daybreakers are a new band that show a lot of promise on their debut release. Their songs are centered around some mighty fine pop hooks that they deliver with plenty of electric guitar and vocal harmonies. The arrangements have a slight jam band quality of the feel-good variety, a sound that is ripe for summer listen’.
See Part 1 of Shamrock Shakes and Oxycontin, a Special Boston Playlist, featuring You Won’t, Julie Rhodes, Mark Erelli and more here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.